Mulberry’s General Counsel discusses pitfalls of counterfeits at this year’s Leather Industry Engagement Day

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With fake designer goods on the increase, the General Counsel at Mulberry took to the floor at the University of Northampton’s Leather Industry Engagement Day to explain the effects counterfeits can have on designer brands and their products.

Kate Anthony Wilkinson has been responsible for the Mulberry Group’s legal matters for six years and told the audience the problems that counterfeit products create for luxury brands and how the brands can take steps to protect their trademarks and fight against counterfeiting.

She said: “We have seen an increase in counterfeit products coming into the UK, primarily from China, but one way to counteract this is to control your supply chain well. Mulberry has two factories in England, based in Somerset, where we produce around 50 percent of our bags. This means that any trademarked components arriving into the UK from overseas, addressed to other locations in the UK, will be seized by the Border Agency as they will be counterfeit.”

“However it’s not just the fake products you might see on market stalls that cause problems; counterfeits are also being sold online. People purchase what they believe to be genuine products from various websites advertising cheap or discounted bags and when the product arrives – if it arrives at all – and it is not the expected high quality, the customer is confused and upset, then contacts our customer services team to complain.

“Although we advise them that the website is not a genuine one and that they should make a claim against their credit card company, there is unfortunately not much else we can do for the customer. We then take action to try and shut down that particular website in order to protect other customers.  Online purchasers need to be very careful about the sites from which they buy products.”

But having unhappy customers, even if they bought a fake from a counterfeit website, or having poor quality products purporting to be Mulberry bags in circulation, can damage the brand, as well as costing the company money with potential lost sales, having to deal with customer enquiries and taking action to shut down fake websites.

Kate went on to explain that brands invest a considerable amount of time, money and passion in their design, innovation and production teams; counterfeiters who just copy designer products are taking advantage of this without incurring any cost or work themselves.

She continued: “This is why Mulberry takes the fight against counterfeits seriously, investing time and money to try and reduce the counterfeits available. Working closing with other brands and agencies means that we can have a greater impact on combating the counterfeiters and protecting customers.”

The Leather Industry Engagement Day took place at the University of Northampton on Thursday 9 November and featured a number of talks from prestigious companies who either manufacture leather or frequently use leather within their products.

Students, staff and local schoolchildren were invited to attend by the University’s Institute for Creative Leather Technologies so they could discuss the career possibilities with employers, such as Rolls Royce, Church’s Footwear, ECCO Leather, Pittards, Scottish Leather Group and Tusting.

Rachel Garwood, Director of the Institute of Creative Leather Technologies, said:  “It was our fifth and biggest event to date attracting over 200 students from both the University and local schools and colleges. Significant members of the supply chain supported the day, highlighting the role of leather within their company whether it be tanners, chemical companies or luxury brands.

“The day provided an excellent opportunity for students to network with industry resulting with some being offered interviews. One of my aims is to increase the profile of leather as a potential career choice and the day certainly hit the mark.”

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