A new drive to ensure online sales of fake Harris Tweed goods are “nipped in the bud” is being launched by the body that protects the brand.
The Stornoway-based Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) has hired a specialist firm to scour the internet to spot sellers falsely using the fabric’s legally protected trademarks, including the famous Orb symbol.
Yesterday HTA chief executive Lorna MacAulay said it was taking the step after detecting a “trend towards links of concern” on sales platforms.
The Harris Tweed trademarks are protected by a 1993 Act of Parliament and the authority has in the past successfully taken legal action against companies using forged labels.
Edinburgh-based SnapDragon Monitoring will now be responsible for checking ecommerce, social media and auction sites for counterfeit products.
Ms MacAulay said: “We have seen a trend towards links of concern and we are nipping them in the bud.
“It has taken generations to build the Harris Tweed brand into the popular global phenomena we see today. It is our job to guard against unauthorised use of the brand and we take that role very seriously.
“SnapDragon Monitoring will help us to continue to do that effectively in the digital world and protect our reputation in the eyes of businesses who invest in Harris Tweed and the customers who buy their products.”
SnapDragon was set up by Rachel Jones, following her own experience of fighting and beating counterfeiting while running a business selling baby products.
She said: “Brands work hard to build trust but counterfeiting can easily destroy it. The Harris Tweed Orb is one of the most recognisable trademarks in fashion, which makes it a target for fakes.
“Our team of experts will work to eliminate the sale of Harris Tweed counterfeits online and protect its reputation for the future.”
Following a resurgence of popularity, sales of Harris Tweed products are estimated to generate around £11million-a-year.
The Orb is the oldest British certification mark in continuous use. Only Harris Tweed cloth, hand-woven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra in their own homes, using pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides can be stamped with the mark.
Earlier this year the HTA announced it was appointing a brand “ambassador” in Japan. Part of the post’s remit includes policing the trademarks against a rising number of of counterfeit products in an “extremely important” market for the industry.