Knockoffs are not a new problem in the fashion industry, but some companies are fighting back and this year anticounterfeiting is poised to take on even greater importance.

This story first appeared in the December 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Firms such as Burberry and Chanel have been aggressive in recent years in going after imitators. Now, other accessories firms are getting in on the action. Kate Spade has hired an attorney to specifically address this problem and the New York City Police Department has also gotten more involved. It recently undertook a sting operation that led to the arrest of nine alleged counterfeiters and the seizure of merchandise valued at more than $700,000.

Worldwide, the International Chamber of Commerce estimates that counterfeit merchandise represents about 5 to 7 percent, or $500 billion, of global trade, and in the first half of 2002, the U.S. Customs Service seized $5.1 million in counterfeit apparel; $1.5 million in fake handbags, wallets and backpacks; $2.5 million in bogus watches, and $650,000 in imitation sunglasses.

“Many people don’t really understand the problem when it comes to counterfeiting,” said Barbara Kolsun, Spade’s new in-house attorney. “People need to know that this is a crime, that it’s stealing.”