Influencer Report: The Impact of Complicit Social Media Influencers on the Consumption of Counterfeit Goods in the UK

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Intellectual property rights underpin the innovation that drives the free-market economy and enhances the welfare of the public. They are crucial in providing rights owners with the protections they need to invest in creative ideas and the development of their brands. The illicit trade in counterfeit goods directly harms the market, hinders development and undermines public welfare. Globalisation and the digital economy has provided criminal enterprises access to markets across the world. The OECD and EUIPO (2019) estimated that the international trade in counterfeit goods in 2016 was worth $509 billion (OECD & EUIPO, 2019).

An important recent trend is the increased role of social media influencers in facilitating the trade. Influencers are regarded as trusted opinion leaders in their online communities, so their views matter to followers. Some, complicit influencers, promote the illicit wares whilst reassuring potentially susceptible followers that buying counterfeits is both rational and acceptable. This marketplace is highly gendered, and currently dominated by female influencers promoting counterfeit fashion, accessories, jewellery and beauty products to female consumers. There has been no prior research into the impact of influencers on the consumption of counterfeit goods. To address this gap, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) commissioned the University of Portsmouth to undertake this pilot study based on a quantitative survey of 1,000 female consumers in the UK. This study found that social media endorsements prompted 10% of female participants to purchase counterfeit goods. It identifies four factors which increase the likelihood of counterfeit purchasing: trusted others including complicit influencers, rationalisations, risk blindness and risk appetite.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIntellectual Property Office
Commissioning bodyIntellectual Property Office
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9781915090225
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021


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