Report: social media drives growth in counterfeiting

Social media is the most distinctive medium for communication on counterfeit goods and in facilitating intellectual property infringement, with Facebook one of the leading culprits, a new report reveals.

The report – titled Share and Share Alike: The Challenges from Social Media for Intellectual Property Rights – found that 17.5 per cent of transactions online were found to be of counterfeit products, and 88 per cent of these transactions were conducted by consumers who knowingly purchased a copied product.

Published by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, the report highlights the growing influence of social media in intellectual property and the trend that counterfeiting has moved online. The IPO sought “to gain an accurate picture on the impact that social media is having on IP rights holders and consumers of IP”.

Based on literature reviews, interviews with companies and the three main social media platforms, Google, Twitter and Facebook, as well as the online monitoring of products and a consumer survey, the report aimed to assess the role that social media plays in the sale and distribution of fake goods from the alcohol, cigarette, clothing, footwear, perfume and watches sectors, and to understand the scale, impact and characteristics of infringements.

Facebook groups were found to represent the most “exposed location” for suspect communications, with suspect activity being much more prevalent in closed groups – 40.8 per cent of communications in closed groups deemed to be dodgy compared with 8.3 per cent of communications within open Facebook groups. “Closed groups have a strong influence on infringement with complicit consumers five times more likely to shop in closed groups than in open groups,” the report said.