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An example of counterfeit Thomas Sabo jewellery
An example of counterfeit Thomas Sabo jewellery

New laws to stop counterfeit jewellery

Selling counterfeit watch and jewellery brands in Australia is set to become a tougher business, with new laws passed that aim to protect Australians from fake brands.

The Australian Government has passed an amendment to intellectual property laws that will apply harsher penalties to counterfeiting and give Customs and Police officers stronger powers to seize phony imports.

The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012 raises the maximum penalty for trademark rip-offs to five years imprisonment, an increase of three years from the former maximum penalty, while counterfeiters will also face heavier financial penalties if caught.

“This is good news for business and good news for Australian jobs as phony imports can undercut local products and employment,” Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus said. “It takes a lot of work to build strong brands, and Australian consumers appreciate knowing exactly what it is they are buying.”

Phil Edwards, managing director Duraflex Group Australia, which distributes Thomas Sabo, told Jeweller that the amendment was “excellent news”.

“It’s a huge problem with Thomas Sabo,” he said. “We already go to a lot of effort to stop the counterfeit sellers. The tougher the law, the better. It was definitely flimsy [previously].”

Edwards said counterfeit Thomas Sabo products from China were available online and at some market stalls in Australia, as well as a few retailers. He said that while counterfeit products were never equal quality to real Thomas Sabo jewellery, people could still be fooled.

“If you are an ignorant consumer and don’t know better, the counterfeit products are very easily mistaken as genuine,” he said. “But when you put it up against [a genuine Thomas Sabo piece], it’s clear as bells, it reeks of a fake.”

Duraflex has even had to run its own counterfeit surveillance operations to attempt to minimise the problem.

“We’ve had limited success, we try very hard to protect the brand and our retail partners and, ultimately, the consumers,” he said. “We’ve hired private investigators to find the source and block it there, we’ve taken legal action against numerous people already.”

JAA CEO Ian Hadassin told Jeweller that while the amendments were worthwhile, counterfeiting was largely a non-issue with jewellery retailers in Australia.

“It can only be a good thing for brands to have more protection, but I don’t think it will affect our members that much,” he said. “Anyone wanting to buy a counterfeit watch or piece of jewellery would do it online or at a market, not from a jewellery store.”

Hadassin believed Australian consumers are discerning and can spot a fake.

“Everyone knows Rolex is an expensive watch brand, I don’t think people are that silly to think they can get one from a market,” he said. “Everyone knows you can only buy Tiffany’s from a Tiffany’s store. Most people are aware of this, there are always some who don’t, but I believe most consumers are astute.”

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