Trendy winter jacket maker Canada Goose Inc. is touting what it says is a landmark victory in its stepped-up battle against cheap knockoffs.
The Canadian company – known for its super-warm, stylish parkas with coyote-fur-trimmed hoods – says the District Court of Stockholm has found five Swedish nationals guilty of felony fraud, trademark infringement and customs offences in a sophisticated racket selling fake Canada Goose jackets.
The court sentenced two of the defendants to time in prison and awarded Canada Goose 701,000 SEK ($105,000 Canadian) in damages.
Bought in Thailand and repackaged in Sweden, the thousands of fakes were of poor quality in fabric and detailing and used raccoon dog fur instead of coyote, the company said in a news release.
A number of aliases and a false Swedish business name were used by the defendants, says Canada Goose, which has been leading a high-profile campaign against counterfeiting over the past several years after seeing a proliferation of fake jackets using its brand name and styles.
The scheme's mastermind was arrested in Bangkok in May, 2012, and extradited to Sweden for trial.
"This is a clear victory in protecting intellectual property and consumers, and its sends a strong message that counterfeiters will not be tolerated," Canada Goose vice-president of global marketing Kevin Spreekmeester, said in a statement.
Among materials used in imitation Canada Goose jackets are feather mulch and other fillers which are often coated in bacteria, fungus, mildew and even feces, says the company.
The fakes also don't use real down or fur and don't provide the warmth and protection in extreme cold, presenting a threat to unwitting consumers, it said.
Sweden's District Court said in its judgment that an estimated 10 per cent of all goods sold in the European Union are counterfeit.
Canada Goose's fight against fakes includes a primer on counterfeiting on its website that asks consumers who suspect they may be the victims of fraud to contact the RCMP's anti-fraud centre.
Canada Goose jackets sell for about $800, while illegal copies go for much less.
The growing popularity of online shopping has fueled the rise of counterfeiting, making it easy to set up websites using fake addresses.
The global economic downturn has also helped boost the popularity of fake high-end branded products.
Techniques Canada Goose uses to fight counterfeiting include sewing holograms into the seams of its parkas.
The company – founded in 1957 by Sam Tick as a manufacturer of extreme weather clothing and expedition gear -- says counterfeiting has bumped up its cost of doing business by six figures every year.
Joe Südow, Canada Goose's vice-president of European sales, said in an interview that the Swedish case goes back a couple years, when he started getting e-mails from people asking if jackets being sold as authentic Canada Goose items might not be the real deal, given that they were retailing for less than the wholesale price.
After a little sleuthing, Mr. Sudow says he managed to track down one of the perpetrators, who told him he got the jackets at a "going-out-of-business sale" in France. "I knew there was no close-out sale in France," said Mr. Sudow.
That led to close collaboration with Swedish police and tax and customs authorities, he said.
"We chased this guy for many years," he said.