There are certain words that elicit a common image amongst people despite cultural and geographical bounds. One of these paradigms holds that when the words “infringer” and “counterfeiter” are used, the image of a suspicious character standing beside a table of fraudulent goods on a city side street comes to mind. While this archetype is by no means outdated, the ever-expanding realm of cyberspace is ushering in a new, powerful and omnipresent generation of infringers and counterfeiters. This summer I served as the Brand Protection intern for Burberry, where I was able to analyze the methods of this new generation and expand the brand’s digital presence to slow down its rapid growth, while simultaneously combatting the old generation of counterfeiters.
Brand Protection is a hybrid department, handling all Intellectual Property and anti-counterfeit matters. The sole mission of the team is to remove as many counterfeit Burberry products from the market as possible, while holding those responsible for their sale and promotion accountable. My internship with this luxury fashion house was unique, because while I worked under the direction of my Mentor Attorney handling all civil matters of the “old” generation, I also worked under the direction of the team’s Digital Manager on the “new” generation. I was able to see how counterfeiters are using the breadth of the worldwide web to their advantage. Now, counterfeiters do not have to limit their market to those walking by a store front or table; they can use cyberspace to reach their tentacles across continents to access new consumers.
Burberry is established as an international luxury fashion house, renowned for its trench coats and recognized by its signature and trademarked Check pattern. Due to the brand’s success and recognition, those intending to benefit from it leave no stone unturned. Auction sites began to reveal themselves as a conduit for the sale of counterfeits several years ago, and now the practice of using technology has expanded dramatically. Social media sites and numerous mobile applications, seemingly benign to the average user, are now tools in the counterfeiter’s arsenal poised and ready to be misused. The company takes great pride in the quality of their brand, so they have been on the forefront of establishing protocols and innovative programs to slow this rapid misuse of technology.
This internship did not just provide me with a keen eye for infringing and counterfeit Burberry products and the chance to work under a team of esteemed attorneys. The position opened my eyes to the depth that technological innovation is changing all aspects of the legal world, and showed me that in order to succeed the profession must evolve and expand along with those who use its powers for evil. The legal profession may seem antiquated to many, but technology is slowly pushing the field to the dawn of its own digital revolution.