The big business of “legal fake” products has been taking over the world, as counterfeit copycats use loopholes in the justice system. Last year, after original label Supreme New York spent months in court, the European Unions Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled against the US-based brand to become a registered trademark within the European Union. Fighting against the likes of Supreme Italia, the floodgates opened for a whole new business – copycats.
Ever since, Italy and Spain counterparts of International Brand Firm (IBF) have been creating outposts across the globe to sell fake goods. While the practice for the most part has been condemned, it hasn’t stopped the company creating a steady profit. Founder James Jebbia of Supreme New York has kept quiet throughout the carnage – one being when Samsung China announced its collaboration with the Italia brand – but following the dead silence, he has once again come out swinging.
In an exclusive interview with the Business of Fashion, the streetwear pioneer let loose to the publication calling the fake labels a “criminal enterprise”.
“I don’t think another company has really had to deal with this like we have. This is a whole new level of criminal enterprise — these complete imposters and impersonators,” he told BoF. “This is a company that was able to convince one of the biggest companies in the world [Samsung] that they are the real thing.”
“People should know that the notion of legal fakes is a complete farce,” he said. “It would be sad if a new generation believes that is actually legit,” Jebbia added, likening IBF’s ability to spread disinformation to “fake news”. “We do not do a ton of press and we are very silent. These guys are taking advantage of the… We haven’t had the time to basically go with this massive disinformation tirade or press thing which most people would.”
In 2017, IBF generated £514,000 (about $679,000) in earnings, based on public filings for a portion of its enterprise. And in the same year Supreme New York sold 50 percent of its business for $500 million to the Carlyle Group in order to preserve the value of the brand. A business model based on hype, scarcity and one-off products, IBF could quite easily undo that work if they continue to expand throughout the world and in turn create readily available product. With presence of Supreme Italia in Spain as well as China, it has prevented the real thing to offer goods and ultimately grow its business outside its already-established 11 stores.
With trademark applications in the European Union rejected twice for Supreme New York – because it is “devoid of distinctive character” – the original company will continue the fight against the legal copycats. Stay tuned for more.