NEW YORK — Representatives of Europe’s leading luxury brands took their concerns over the exploding global counterfeit market to European Union president José Manuel Barroso last week in Brussels.

Frederick Mostert, honorary chairman of the International Trademark Association and chairman of British luxury goods lobby Walpole, led a delegation that included Leonardo Ferragamo, Santo Versace and Madeleine Vendeuil-Denise of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in a meeting with Barroso last Thursday. The group discussed the various issues surrounding the counterfeit problem and how those issues affect European manufacturers of luxury goods in particular.

As he did at an anticounterfeiting event held in New York last February, Mostert used his wardrobe to illustrate just how widespread the problem has become. He attended the meeting clad from head to toe in fake merchandise, including a fake Armani suit, Dunhill shirt, tie by Versace, Ferragamo belt, Givenchy socks, Louis Vuitton sunglasses and Burberry scarf. Mostert’s bogus Prada briefcase even contained fake Tiffany jewelry.

Trade in counterfeit goods of all kinds has skyrocketed to an estimated $456 billion global industry in 2003, compared with an estimated $5.5 billion in 1982. The growth is a threat to European luxury goods manufacturers, which, as Mostert points out, represent about 80 percent of the global luxury goods market.

“It was heartening to see how passionate and supportive president Barroso was on a subject of great importance to the European Union,” said Mostert. “This meeting stood out as one of the best and most constructive discussions that we have had with any government institution in recent times.”

China’s role as both the problem and solution to the issue was an unavoidable topic of discussion during the meeting. Mostert was able to offer Barroso concrete evidence of the inroads companies are making with the Chinese government to increase protection.

According to Mostert, numerous European luxury labels have been officially recognized as well-known brands by the Administration of Industry and Commerce in China. Posters citing these brands have been placed in public areas and outside markets around Beijing in recent weeks.

“It’s part of an ongoing effort by the Chinese government, and a tremendous effort, to provide special protection,” said Mostert. “It is one of the first public postings where foreign famous brands were officially recognized as being well-known.”

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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