The sports merchandising industry is a global market witnessing significant growth, with the demand for sporting goods being driven by e-commerce penetration, rising popularity of sports leagues giving way to increased fan bases, and wider participation in top sports. Unsurprisingly, sporting right holders are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the methods and measures used to exploit their brands.

Despite such positive trends, there remains a significant problem hindering continued expansion in this industry: the prominence of counterfeit products.

When Kieran Tierney reportedly took to social media last week to stop a supporter from spending £175 on what he thought was Tierney’s shirt from Celtic’s 3-3 draw with Manchester City in the Champions League, it was another unwelcome reminder to businesses of how persistent the widespread sale of counterfeit goods remains.

Some experts have stated that the sports memorabilia market has remained ‘flooded’ with fakes in the last few years with almost  90% of items that are sold online or at charity auctions being fakes or copies. Counterfeiters, much like sporting right holders, are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their methods of operating.

What can businesses do?

  • Businesses concerned that their products are being or could be imitated should have a counterfeit strategy in place. This may include, for example, online monitoring of auction sites, key word searches, and the implementation of internal policies on reporting fake goods and engaging service providers (e.g. investigators or lawyers) to assist with enforcement.
  • All businesses should ensure that appropriate intellectual property rights (trade marks and registered designs) are in place and that corresponding registration certificates can be located with ease and speed.
  • Companies affected should be cognisant of the enforcement options available: submitting reports to trading standards and customs, contacting the police and, if appropriate, considering civil court proceedings.

If you are concerned that counterfeit goods are infringing your intellectual property or disrupting your sales channels, please get in touch with one of our intellectual property lawyers or your usual Shepherd and Wedderburn contact. 

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