Katie Barnes
Katie Barnes

Fake versions of my nail tools were being sold on eBay – Here’s what I did about it…

By Katie Barnes | 18 May 2021 | Expert Advice, Feature, Tech Talk

Counterfeit Stock Image

Recently, I discovered a company selling counterfeit Katie Barnes Tool Range® products on eBay. My brand is my name, so I had never considered that counterfeit versions of products under my name would be created. It’s something that I thought only big companies and designers would experience. How wrong I was.

Now, these were not just a lookalike product which we regularly see pop up in the industry. They were exact counterfeit replicas showcasing my logo – my name and being sold under the listed brand ‘Katie Barnes’, with buyers told that they were receiving the genuine item; all for less than my manufacturing cost per item.

The unfortunate and sad truth is, that had I not paid a substantial amount of money when launching the brand to trademark my brand name – my own name that I was given at birth – then there would not have been a thing I could have done to stop this. My business ,which I had worked so hard to build up, which depended on the reputation of my name, could have been ruined. Due to this protection and my excellent Intellectual Property (IP) Attorney, we managed to put a stop to this infringement of IP, of course, not without further cost to my business.

A screen grab of the counterfeit Katie Barnes Tool Range products being sold on eBay

This company was manufacturing counterfeit goods and using the reputation of my brand name to sell inferior quality tools to customers who believed they were genuine. If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

When seeking to purchase products from a brand, source the brand’s official website and look for its authorised distributors and resellers.

When purchasing an item such as a tool from eBay or other third party online marketplaces, you may discover poor quality and longevity issues. However, there can be  more serious consequences and issues when purchasing counterfeit cosmetics through these sites. I have known of counterfeit make-up brands being sold on eBay, again for a lesser cost than trade price. The packaging and product looked genuine but when it was tested in a lab, a fraction of the product was genuine but it was topped up with fillers including arsenic. Using cosmetics with these could have serious consequences. Learn more about purchasing nail products from third party marketplaces in my previous blog for Scratch.

As business owners, we all have a brand; not just those that sell products. A brand is what identifies your goods or service such as a name, term, design, symbol, logo or any other feature that allows customers to recognise your brand over others.

The original Katie Barnes tools

You need to consider how your brand would be affected should someone start using any element of it.

Would it confuse customers; would it affect your business; would your sales drop? Without the correct IP protection, the reality is that you don’t own or have a right to your brand and you could lose it overnight. While you may think that it will never happen to you, learn from my experience – and the experience of many others in this industry.

Intellectual Property is a very complex and extensive field and different protection is required for different brands and needs. Firstly, it is important to understand the definition and difference between them and I will just touch on the basics:

  1. Trademarks are elements of branding such as a business name, slogan or a logo. It cannot be too generic such as ‘tool range’ but it can be Katie Barnes Tool Range®. This means that an IP infringement would be another brand using Katie Barnes Tool Range® but for example, they could set up Scratch Magazine Tool Range. ™ stands for a trademark which is awaiting registration. ® confirms that the registration of that trademark has been confirmed.
  2. Design protects the appearance of a product. To register this, it must be a new and unique design. You must have designed this unique product to register this; it cannot be a white label product designed by someone else with your logo on. If you have the date marked drawings of this product then you will usually be entitled to unregistered design protection too.
  3. Patents protect inventions and how things work.

If you are considering protecting your brand, I strongly recommend investing in an IP solicitor.

While you may think that you have protected yourself, at great cost, just one small inconsistency or error can leave you out of pocket and unprotected. When I first set up some trademarks years ago. I was left without as much protection as I had thought, due to incorrect information I had been provided by IPO themselves.

If you are protecting your brand, invest a little more and get the best protection with the help of an expert.

When launching a brand or a product, the first step when naming this is the check if you are infringing on another’s IP. A quick search on the IPO website will quickly advise you. Several years ago, there was case where a well-known brand who had built an amazing reputation was in fact infringing on another’s IP with their company and was forced to change their name.

This is something you may not have ever previously considered for your brand, or even recognised that your business is a brand. Protecting your brand in this way is like insurance. You pay for it with the hope that you never need to use it, but it is there should you need.

Love Katie B x