Digital tech ‘cost-effective and fast’ in fighting counterfeit cosmetics, says SnapDragon

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

In the UK, more than 2.2 million fake body care items were seized between 2017-2018, according to Intellectual Property Office records (Getty Images)
In the UK, more than 2.2 million fake body care items were seized between 2017-2018, according to Intellectual Property Office records (Getty Images)

Related tags Counterfeit Fraud Regulation safety compliance e-commerce

Online brand protection specialist SnapDragon has won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation for its counterfeit scanning technology – a tool its founder says is crucial in fighting fake cosmetics.

Between 2017-18, more than 2.2 million fake body care items, including cosmetics and perfumes, were seized in the UK alone, according to Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Crime and Enforcement data. And during this time frame, cosmetics was the third most-investigated counterfeit product behind cigarettes/tobacco and clothing. Perfume was fifth, just behind footwear.

SnapDragon’s Swoop technology software, developed four years ago, was now used by hundreds of small, medium and large brand owners worldwide to scan the biggest e-commerce sites for counterfeits, flagging them for removal using trademarks and design rights.

Copycats ‘not uncommon’ within beauty

Rachel Jones, founder and CEO of SnapDragon, said counterfeiting was not uncommon in beauty and because of toxic and hazardous materials often used in fake items, the stakes were high for consumers.

“Fake cosmetics can put consumers in serious danger,”​ Jones said.

She told CosmeticsDesign-Europe counterfeiting could be seen across all segments of the beauty industry – makeup, skin care, devices, tools and fragrances – “with varying degrees of danger and discomfort associated with each”.

“…We would love to do more in the beauty industry,” ​Jones said. 

In addition to consumer concerns, she said fraudulent products could also fund illicit trade and crime, including child labour and trafficking, so there was a business responsibility to uphold. "What beauty brand wants to turn a blind eye to the fact that their brand, in being ripped off, is funding people trafficking and worse?"  

Digital tools to tackle counterfeits fast

She said SnapDragon’s Swoop technology could be used directly by brand owners in a ‘self-service’ capacity or with assistance in a ‘managed’ option. “The client can do as little, or as much, as they like ensuring budgets are controlled and resources appropriately utilised.”

The software was constantly under development to make usability and efficiency improvements according to user demands, she said, though it had been designed for easy use, and speed. The technology, for example, was able to identify and remove counterfeit links in under five minutes on certain major online retail platforms.

“Tech is hugely cost-effective and fast,” ​Jones said. “There will always be a need to work offline too, particularly for the bigger brands, but by using tech to identify and remove infringing links, you prevent their public visibility which in turn prevents [products] being bought, exported, imported, distributed and sold on, saving lives at the end of the day.”

Fake devices and illegal skin care

In November, last year, Swedish skintech brand Foreo won a two-year intellectual property battle in China​ over its Luna device – a ruling it defined as breakthrough because it sent strong signals to fraudulent skin care companies.

In the same month, Amazon and eBay removed illegal mercury-containing skin lighteners from its platforms​ following an NGO exposé.

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