With the Christmas holidays behind us, it’s great to look back and reflect on what made the season so jolly. The days off probably helped, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that one of the most important parts of the celebrations is gifts.
On that note, we want to congratulate our client Moonbug for their CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ Doll making it to the BBC’s Top 10 list of Christmas toys for 2021. It was sold out weeks before Christmas and received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Needless to say, children around the country woke up on Christmas Day to a very welcome surprise.
Behind every success story, however, are counterfeiters and infringers.
This made the news in early November 2021 when Trading Standards officers in Doncaster seized hundreds of fake and unsafe toys in just a single week of enforcement action.
In fact, it is estimated that £400 million of toy sales revenue is currently lost to counterfeit sales each year in the UK. Illegal traders (and the illegal and unsafe toys they sell) are estimated to be worth up to £850 million.
Apart from the financial ramifications caused by counterfeits and fake toys, the problem runs deeper. Christmas shoppers may have been tempted to turn to third-party sellers for cheaper prices, or perhaps because certain toys were unavailable in official stores. This is where a really concerning issue emerges– the safety of children when they are playing with these fake toys.
According to the latest British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) study in 2021, out of 255 toys sold by third parties on eBay, Amazon, and other online marketplaces, 88% of these were not legally permitted to be sold in the UK. Even more concerningly, 48% of these toys were tested to be unsafe for a child to play with. Some of the potential injuries that could have been caused by these toys are choking and strangulation, damage to sight or hearing, burns, chemical poisoning and electric shocks.
This is the darker side of counterfeits and unauthorised toys. Aside from the obvious issue of revenue and profit, it’s not just about the balance sheet. Left alone, the problem festers into a severe safety issue for children and damage to brands and reputation.
A strong trade mark portfolio – which Stobbs specialise in putting into place – help the likes of Trading Standards and Customs officials seize counterfeit goods. However, their resources are limited and with online sales of toys increasing year-on-year - accounting for 37% of total toy sales in 2020 - the importance of proper anti-counterfeiting measures and brand protection measures for the legitimate toy industry will only continue to increase.
Traditional legal approaches do not work as treating each matter as an individual legal dispute leads to spiralling costs.
Takedown requests can be managed in-house, but it will feel like an endless task filing these with various sites only for the same party to reappear in a different guise soon after. There are a bewildering number of online platforms that allow standardisation of tasks like takedowns but they alone don’t have the long term impact as the issues will usually return.
That’s where Stobbs comes in with brand protection. Alongside putting in place robust trade mark protection, we are also experts in the online brand enforcement space, a role which is not commonly available in our industry. We help our clients choose the best option for their needs. We can set up suitable platforms and then devise strategies that provide a level of standardisation on low level matters, but also provide input on commercially more important issues in a cost-effective way so that the real underlying issues can be addressed, including being ready to leverage litigation to see settlements and damages paid. Being flexible with our approach and about costs is paramount to this offering.
In the end, both naughty and nice children can enjoy a safe and merry Christmas.