Six months after launching its first range of business accounts (in October 2012), social media site Pinterest is becoming a new marketplace for fakes.

Pinterest was founded in 2010 and has approximately 30 million users. The social scrapbook site allows users to set up a pin board account and pin images they would like to share with others. Sometimes this may involve pinning copyrighted material and ‘pinners’ rarely seek the photographer’s permission.

Copyright infringement is not the only risk for brand owners, however. Closer examination of pinners’ practices has revealed that the increasing number of corporates using Pinterest over the past six months has opened up an opportunity for companies selling fake goods.

By setting up their own pinboard account, such companies are able to showcase their wares, alongside logos and other visual references, which may have been lifted from the site of the genuine brand owner, and attract consumers back to their e-commerce sites.

If Pinterest account holders search for a specific brand of designer goods by name, instead of just finding the brand owner’s site, they would also be likely to find sites displaying the cheaper alternatives.

Pinterest does operate a ‘no-pining’ service which allows brands using the site to block their own content so it cannot be repinned elsewhere. It is also possible for companies to identify themselves as the holder of intellectual property rights and ask for offending accounts to be blocked. However  this relies on the brand holder themselves to police the site.

Fiona McBride, partner and trade mark attorney at Withers & Rogers says:

‘Failing to take action to prevent this kind of brand infringement could have serious repercussions for the brand owner in the long run. Apart from the immediate loss of sales, there could be damage to their reputation as a result of building an association in the mind of the consumer with goods of lower quality.’

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