28 July 2023

TikTok Shop: the new frontier for counterfeit products

The advent of social commerce has revolutionised the way we shop, blurring the lines between content creation, entertainment, and consumerism. The explosive growth of TikTok has attracted a reported 1.5 billion user base, which includes content creators, influencers, and entrepreneurs.

The platform’s ease of use and potential for viral success has led to a surge in product promotion and marketing campaigns. TikTok Shop, the retail arm of this social media giant, allows users to discover and buy products directly from the platform. With US$20 billion of expected sales this year alone, TikTok Shop has been hailed as a groundbreaking move in the world of social commerce, streamlining the shopping experience and capitalising on its massive user base.

While this seems like a promising integration of e-commerce and social media, it also brings to light a concerning issue – the proliferation of counterfeit products. It’s important to understand challenges TikTok Shop faces with counterfeits and its implications on intellectual property (IP) rights.

The rise of counterfeits on TikTok

Recent reports have found more and more counterfeit products, ranging from clothing and accessories to gadgets and cosmetics, finding their way onto TikTok through various means. Sellers may use popular creators to endorse their knock-off products, capitalising on their wide reach and influencing power.

Others may subtly promote counterfeit goods through visually appealing and misleading videos, luring unsuspecting users into making purchases they may later regret. This movement has been coined ‘RepTok.’ Despite TikTok’s policies against users posting content featuring counterfeit goods, #RepTok, short for Replica-Tok, is thriving, with upwards of 120 million views on that hashtag alone.

These unauthorised copies of branded products cause harm to both consumers and legitimate brands. So, what are TikTok doing to tackle this?

In the fight against counterfeits, a spokesperson for TikTok advised that they have a dedicated team of IP professionals working with brands, as well as a dedicated IP Protection Centre platform for rights holders. Rights holders can use this platform to submit takedown complaints and track their progress. Merchants found to be selling counterfeit products or infringing IP rights will be penalised or permanently removed from the platform. Sellers may also be required to provide documentation, such as brand authorisation or proof of product authenticity, with respect to their product listings.

The impact on IP rights

The issue of counterfeits on TikTok raises a pressing concern about IP rights. Rights holders should be aware of the risks faced and have a strategy in place to tackle infringement. A clear strategy may protect their brand value from potential dilution, assist in maintaining consumer confidence regarding safety regulations and quality standards and protect against potential loss of revenue, as well as reputational damage caused by inferior counterfeit products.

If you would like to discuss how to protect your brand’s online presence, please contact us to discuss how we may assist.

Nayna Chunilal
Technical Assistant
Harry Rowe
Managing Associate