The name Back Four conveys what we represent. We aren’t the superstars who create opportunities with a long-range pass nor the ones who rifle screamers from outside the box. We’re the ones who read the game and put our bodies on the line to defend your goal. We protect the inventive, creative work that you do – that is our game.
Our experience and belief – coupled with new ideas for combatting intellectual property abuse – persuaded the Premier League to employ Back Four to implement and manage its Anti-Counterfeiting Programme. The programme has been a huge success and it confirmed our methods worked. Since then, as well as protecting the Premier League and its Clubs, we have been able to transfer our philosophy to other brands. We are now trusted by clients from across the sports and fashion industries.
So, while we began as sports-industry experts, we pride ourselves on being flexible and providing solutions that are tailored to protect any brand’s inimitability, however varied. The real proof of our success then is in the mix of our client brands and our network of enforcement agency contacts, who seek our support. We know from them that we make a difference. Simply put, we guarantee achievable, innovative strategies that safeguard the most valuable asset: your brand.
With the right measures we ensure it is only YOU who profits from the rights of your brand. We plug gaps in the market restricting the likelihood of counterfeiting and brand abuse. These are a few of the key ways we achieve this:
Intellectual Property Advice
Brand Protection Advice
Intellectual Property AdviceInvolving a comprehensive review of your intellectual property portfolio focusing on overlooked opportunities and potential registrations. In our experience, this area can often be neglected but we can’t overstate how integral it is: it is insurance for your brand and your first wall of defence. Recognising its importance, we are partnered with the trade mark attorneys, Wilson Gunn, who support us and provide expert advice on the finer legal aspects, ever ready to help our clients.
Brand Protection AdviceBacked by industry experts, we have the most effective strategies to prevent counterfeiting and brand abuse. We know there’s no brand like your brand – it is unique – and this means a uniform approach does not always work. For this reason, our solutions are tailored to your particular situation and only provided after a thorough analysis of your product and market place.
EducationWe organise regular training sessions and renowned brand-protection events for enforcement agencies (such as ‘Football Against Fakes’ and Rugby Keeps it Real). Reinforced by regular communication, workshops and interactive tutorials, everything we organise is geared towards building relationships with enforcement agencies and ensuring they are suitably equipped to protect your brand. In addition, we also offer brand protection seminars to our clients, which include an intellectual property session and an overview of the brand protection issues facing that client.
Law Enforcement LiaisonThe Back Four team benefit from strong relationships with key law enforcement agencies, whether Police, Customs or Trading Standards. As a result, we are able to facilitate the sometimes complex processes involved with seizing illegal goods. As first point-of-contact, we are on-hand to advise on questionable merchandise, distribute your own brand protection guide and examine exhibits. We also support enforcement with raid action and provide legal statements for use in criminal cases.
CustomsWe manage the Customs seizure process from start-to-finish, keeping you informed of developments and ensuring counterfeit products are detained and destroyed.
Independent PolicingWe independently monitor all market places for the distribution, supply and sale of counterfeit merchandise. When infringing products are located, we immediately collate evidence, collaborate with enforcement agencies and ensure action.
OnlineSpecialists at locating high-profile sellers in the market, we police the internet for counterfeit merchandise and ensure appropriate, swift action is taken. We have recently partnered with online experts Pointer Brand Protection, which allows us to utilise their technology to further enhance our efforts.
InvestigationsAny manufacture, supply or sale of counterfeit merchandise is investigated with the aim of immediately ceasing any production and obtaining any illegal produce. We arrange evidence packs tailored for the initiation of enforcement action and the purpose of civil proceedings to help make a tricky time as easy as possible.
In the event of any abuse of your brand, we are the first call for our customers and law enforcement. We realise a brand’s appeal can be quickly diluted by a market saturated with counterfeits and so we constantly guard it, managing this in a variety of ways.
Law Enforcement Liaison
The best answer is this: you cannot afford not to protect it. Or as the new adage goes: protecting the brand maintains demand. Additionally, comprehensive brand protection:
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we are passionate about brand protection, call it obsessed. It is more than a job to us, it’s our calling. Because of this you won’t find a more dedicated, professional or successful team. Factor in our experience and innovative concepts and we can guarantee to improve your defences against brand abuse and counterfeiting.
It’s what we do and – with 24/7 protection, with legal back-up and law enforcement support, with strategies tailored to a brand’s individuality, with all these little extras and more – we do it very well. Sorry to boast but why shouldn’t you employ us?
If you’d like to know more, then we’d love to hear from you. Please do GET IN TOUCH.
If you are a currently one of our clients and wish to access reports and additional information relating to our efforts on your behalf please log into the SECURE CLIENT AREA.
We have worked with Warrior Sports and New Balance since their tie in with Liverpool Football Club in 2012. Our initial work focused on Customs operations relating to seizure of fake replica shirts at postal depots. More recently however, through our 24/7 monitoring, we discovered two linked outlets in Lincolnshire selling large quantities of fake sports footwear, in particular New Balance trainers.
Reacting to this, we made test purchases and gathered enough intelligence to create a portfolio of evidence. With this, we then engaged Trading Standards and colleagues at Adidas and Puma to organise raid-action and seize the fake product.
Back Four protect the FA Premier League and its Clubs, overseeing an Anti-Counterfeiting Programme which has orchestrated the seizure and destruction of merchandise worth in excess of £9 million. Our association began in 2011 and we have pursued over 6,000 cases against infringers of intellectual property rights. Our success in brand protection is a consequence of a proactive approach to investigation alongside activities which raise awareness of brands and establish key relationships. A recent case, where counterfeit Premier League items were discovered for sale, is indicative of the rigour and extent of our work. These infringements came to light via our regular market-monitoring and allowed us to trace the culprit. Then, after collating our evidence, we contacted colleagues in law enforcement. This led to raid-action (with Back Four participating) where thousands of counterfeit products were identified and seized. Fines of over £200,000, community service and a suspended custodial sentence were also given to the company’s director.
These positive results owe much to our investigative work but the value of our education programme should not be discounted. We’ve organised training sessions, roadshows and speaking engagements and launched industry leading events like ‘Football Against Fakes’; an annual day for law enforcement and IP professionals to network with representatives from the Premier League, UEFA, FIFA, FACT and the IPO. This has strengthened our reputation in the industry and developed relationships with key enforcement agencies, as well as influential bodies such as the UK’s Anti-Counterfeiting Group. Most importantly however is the end result of this work: more people trained to recognise our clients’ genuine merchandise and more allies in the fight against counterfeiting.
“We’ve worked with Back Four since our promotion in 2011 and their support and help has been invaluable and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”
Rebecca Parry, Brand Protection Executive, Swansea City AFC
“Back Four are expert at locating counterfeit product and initiating action.”
Mark Bell, Licensing Manager, Chelsea FC
“Back Four have been instrumental in the delivery of the Premier League’s anti-counterfeiting programme since 2011. Easy to work with and passionate about what they do, they are diligent, knowledgeable and produce excellent results.”
Evan Ray, Senior Commercial Solicitor, Premier League
For businesses experiencing rapid growth there often follows a period of frustrating brand dilution as counterfeiters are notoriously quick at capitalising on successful brands. This can be overwhelming especially for those who have spent years crafting a unique product only to find unlawful imitations as competitors. Consequently, in addition to our investigative services, Back Four have designed a number of start-up protection strategies aimed at companies with little or no experience in defending their brand.
The benefit of these start-up strategies is illustrated by our work with the hairbrush manufacturer Tangle Teezer. In 2013, they engaged us to manage the global demand for their product that had leaked into the counterfeit market. Within a short space of time we’d consolidated their IP portfolio, provided brand protection advice on a consultancy basis and worked with law enforcement to raise the issue of counterfeit cosmetic products.
For a brand such as Tangle Teezer, who place great value on their status as a British manufacturer, there was also concern over counterfeit products originating from China. It is a point of pride then that we helped create a Chinese customs’ registration and translated their brand protection documents into local languages. As a result, the company has solidified their position as the creators of a unique and much-loved product without being compromised by a flood of imitators at home and abroad.
At Back Four our expertise of intellectual property rights means we are also trusted to protect the Rugby Football Union. Appointed by the RFU during the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it has since been our mission to guard the RFU’s brand whether outside stadia, in shops or online. It is satisfying to say our work has successfully targeted the market in counterfeit merchandise, protecting fans from unscrupulous traders and ensuring commercial revenues are channelled back into the sport. One of our first investigations for the RFU highlighted how easily counterfeit products can dominate legal markets. While performing covert checks during a 2015 RBS Six Nations match, we discovered the sale of counterfeit rugby balls bearing the RFU’s rose device trade mark. After enquiries into the manufacture and distribution of these items, we traced them to an importer in Bath who had also been supplying large quantities to a major high street and online retailer. We pursued two separate investigations with Blackpool Trading Standards and ensured £100,000 worth of counterfeit sports equipment was seized and destroyed.
From an operational perspective, this is the work we specialise in at Back Four. We approach each infringement with a toolkit mentality to evaluate which type of response will be cost-effective, proportionate to the enterprise and, importantly, most likely of success. In cases where the problem demands it, we organise covert surveys, test purchases, create evidential packages and provide law enforcement with the fullest level of support to prosecute sellers who exploit our clients’ rights.
“We consider Back Four to be a key component in our licensing strategy going forward; by keeping the market place clean of counterfeit products official licensees can only benefit.”
Jane Barron, Licensing & Marketing Manager, Rugby Football Union
At Back Four we provide long-term anti-counterfeiting solutions tailored to each client’s individual circumstance. A case in point, is our work with Seatriever International who experience distinct peaks and troughs in the demand for their illoom balloons. It’s clear that certain dates in the year (Halloween and Christmas to name two) will increase demand for their balloons and encourage a proliferation of fakes in the market; therefore, it is integral our own preparation and action is focused in and around these times.
It sounds simple but through intensive planning we anticipate the best direction for our activities so that we secure cost-effective protection for every client and are able to react immediately to any illegal imitators that threaten their sales.
“Back Four are a great asset to any business seeking to implement a global anti-counterfeiting strategy.”
Andrew Vickerstaff, Group Legal Counsel, Seatriever International Holdings Limited
One of the first strategies suggested to new clients is the production of a comprehensive but succinct brand protection guide that can be circulated to law enforcement colleagues. When we began working for sock manufacturer, Drew Brady, they had a dual problem as counterfeit versions of their popular Heat Holders socks were widely available across the UK, yet Trading Standards and Customs officers were not sufficiently aware of the brand to seize fake goods.
This problem was solved by the creation of a brand protection guide which was sent to over 2,000 officers in law enforcement throughout the country. The guide quickly raised the profile of the brand among key enforcement personnel and sparked immediate results; within the first month alone, Liverpool Trading Standards had seized hundreds of pairs of fake socks from market stalls across their city.
Despite Stüssy being a globally-recognised streetwear brand since the early 80s, prior to working with us they had no anti-counterfeiting measures in place in the UK. Consequently, counterfeit Stüssy clothing and headwear had crept into the country and undermined the commercial value of the brand by being sold cheaply in high-profile tourist areas of London such as Camden and Westminster.
Since beginning our association with Stüssy in 2015 and working with Trading Standards, we have raided market stalls and shops across the capital, seizing thousands of pounds worth of items. Not only has our work raised the profile of the brand among law enforcement but it has served to notify traders in counterfeit goods that Stüssy is not a brand that allows counterfeiting to go unchallenged.
Wembley Stadium is one of the most iconic sporting locations in the world so guarding it from counterfeits on behalf of the Football Association is a job we take seriously.
Working closely with the team at Brent and Harrow Trading Standards, we plan for all forthcoming England fixtures and are present at the games to provide on-the-spot, up-to-date advice on trade marks and official merchandise.
“Since we appointed Back Four our brand protection programme has gone from strength to strength. The service we have received is first rate, the people are very user friendly and easy to work with and as a result we have removed a lot more counterfeit goods from the market.”
Sarah Boulton, Solicitor, The FA Group
Although we work with the Premier League implementing its Anti-Counterfeiting Programme, there are also times when individual clubs will seek to expand the level of brand protection available to them. When that happens Back Four are happy to provide information on a consultancy basis.
Following their rapid climb within the world of football, Manchester City FC have both sought and benefitted from our expertise. Working together, we have expanded their anti-counterfeiting activities beyond UK borders and advised the best way to protect commercial and image rights in markets across the world. Trade marks, stadia protection, online takedowns and intelligence gathering – all geared towards the prosecution of manufacturers and traders – are services which we provide for the club as they continue to grow.
While brands such as Premier League football clubs suffer from counterfeiting in a way which is commensurate with the fame they enjoy, it is often smaller companies such as Out of Step Distribution (UK representatives of clothing labels such as HUF, The Hundreds and Brixton) who suffer more deeply. Their reputation as a cult streetwear brand is directly related to the quality of, and the places where, merchandise is sold so this can be easily damaged by an influx of fakes.
Indeed, one of the great problems posed by the sale of fake HUF, The Hundreds and Brixton products was that the substandard copies potentially diluted and compromised the strengths of the brand. The solution then was to support their careful governance of price and location so that the brand retained its exclusivity, a huge part of its appeal. To this end, we perform regular market surveys and ensure UK sellers, particularly in the tourist areas of London, are free from inferior copies, thereby preserving the value of our clients’ hard work.
For Football League Clubs, the spread of counterfeit products has a local impact that is often ignored but that can impede important streams of revenue. Many clubs (such as Aston Villa, Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham, Ipswich Town, Luton Town, Reading, Rotherham United, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers) work with us to limit the presence of intellectual property infringements in local areas so that their business, brand and fans are not compromised by fakes.
Whenever it is necessary, we liaise with local law enforcement to combat counterfeiting at stadia, in shops and online guaranteeing protection from brand abuse for all clubs who want it.
“I would recommend the work of Back Four to any professional football club and sports organisation who are serious about protecting their brand identity.”
Lee Hyde, Director of Retail Operations, Ipswich Town FC
In our experience it is not just sports organisations who experience issues with counterfeiting and brand abuse but many of their high profile stars too. Athletes today are brands in their own right, entering into commercial agreements with sponsors and promoting their own range of products. Unfortunately due to this, they are prime targets for counterfeiters who will unlawfully use this popularity to endorse or sell products that have no link to the athlete.
Working with Triple S Sports Entertainment and New Era Ltd, we have implemented Customs Applications on behalf of their clients and initiated the seizure and destruction of significant quantities of counterfeit clothing and footwear.
“Back Four provided prompt assistance and sound advice in relation to a considerable Customs seizure of a counterfeit product bearing our client’s intellectual property rights.”
Colin Massie, General Counsel, Triple S Sports & Entertainment Group
Alongside protecting football clubs from brand infringement, there is also a responsibility to defend the rights of official club partners, such as Nanostad, producers of 3D stadium puzzles. When they recently experienced issues with Chinese copies, Back Four co-ordinated efforts towards a successful online enforcement programme and removed thousands of counterfeit listings in the process.
In addition to this, Customs Recordals were put in place in China and the EU to detect and detain the counterfeit product.
“Back Four provide innovative and cost effective strategies to take the fight to the counterfeiter!”
Gerardo Pietrafesa, CEO, Kick Off Games/Nanostad
If you require our support, or are aware of any counterfeit merchandise bearing any of the brands we represent please do not hesitate to CONTACT US..
If you require additional information on how to identify counterfeit product from the brands we represent please sign into the SECURE ENFORCEMENT AREA section.
Simply speaking, it is copying something with the intention to deceive. Copying, in itself, is not illegal but the deception almost always is. In legal terms, counterfeiting is the fraudulent manufacture or distribution of a product that falsely bears the trade mark of an authentic brand.
Brand abuse is an umbrella term that includes all the ways in which brands are illegally exploited whether it is through piracy, counterfeiting or a host of other activities. Generally, it is illegal and can be grouped into infringements of patent, trademark, design or copyright.
Intellectual property generally refers to the rights you have as a consequence of creating a unique product or service, though these rights can be bought or transferred. Protection – in the form of registered copyrights, trade marks, designs and patents – prevents others using or copying your ideas, designs and products without permission..
Counterfeiting is illegal for multiple reasons but, basically, it harms many and profits few. Aside from being an untaxed, non-contributing economy that funds other black-market criminal enterprises, it also affects consumer confidence, defrauds the end-customer and pollutes a brand’s persona by weakening its value and exclusivity. In sports and fashion industries, counterfeiting is a major form of brand abuse and an infringement of intellectual property law. It is illegal yet every year the quantity of goods produced by counterfeiters continues to rise, with global estimates now placing the value of this shadow economy at $600 billion.
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