Despite the efforts of brand owners and entities providing online advertising space to police against counterfeit goods, advertisements for counterfeit goods on social media continues to be a recurring problem. Moreover, the appearance of many of these advertisements as genuine and leading to websites that contain the logos and trademarks of the brand owner or a similar website template can often deceive consumers into believing that they are purchasing authentic goods.

Italian cyber-security experts Andrea Stroppa and Agostino Specchiarello recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 advertisements on Facebook, including 180 advertisements in the category of luxury and fashion. Of the 180 luxury and fashion advertisements, 43 of them led to websites selling counterfeit goods, including for example, counterfeit Ray-Ban aviator eyewear. Often, the websites that resolved from the advertisements for the counterfeit goods contained the logos or trademarks belong to well-known security companies and payment systems.

Like other social media platforms, the Facebook terms of use prohibit advertisements that promote or facilitate the sale of counterfeit goods and Facebook reviews and takes action on reports of illegal advertisements. Additionally, a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg that Facebook prohibits “fraudulent or misleading claims or content, and to enforce our terms and policies, we have invested significant resources in developing a robust advertising review program that includes both automated and manual review of ads.”  Despite these efforts, it is still important for both consumers and brand owners to be cognizant of the problem.

The advertisement and sale of counterfeit goods online is not a new problem – and is not limited to luxury or fashion goods. In fact, according to a recently published report by the United Kingdom IP Crime Group found that the sale of counterfeit goods on social media platforms rose by 15% in 2013-2014. Moreover, with the increasing role of social media in today’s advertising, these surveys highlight the importance of brand owners policing against the advertisement and sale of counterfeit goods and entities unfairly capitalizing on the goodwill of the brand.

The sales that ultimately result from these counterfeit links can cause financial damage to a company through lost sales of the genuine article and also damage the reputation of the brand by leading to lower consumer confidence. Therefore, brand owners should be vigilant in monitoring and policing against advertisements for counterfeit goods on social media platforms and obtaining infringing domain names through the proper channels.

This article was prepared by Shelby Bruce ( / +1 612 321 2207) is a lawyer in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Minneapolis intellectual property practice.