A strange saga may soon be coming to a close as Supreme Italia, a sophisticated counterfeiting operation mimicking the real Supreme brand’s moves, has been stripped of its trademark registrations by the China Trade Mark Office (CTMO).
The impostor brand was founded in Italy and is owned by a private British company called International Brand Firm Limited. The company’s unabashed counterfeit operations have included moves into China and even replications of high-profile Supreme New York collaborations, like one with luxury luggage company Rimowa, according to reporting from Hypebeast.
In 2018, Supreme Italia announced a collaboration with Korean mobile carrier Samsung’s China branch, which was subsequently pulled when the real brand publicly protested the partnership.
This March, following the launch of Supreme Italia’s second flagship store in Shanghai (complete with a massive Supreme logo and a wraparound skate ramp), Supreme New York released a letter stating that it was taking legal action against the fake brand.
“IBF [International Brand Firm] impersonates Supreme, sells counterfeit goods and misleads law enforcement, reporters, and even companies like Samsung who have not undertaken full diligence on this counterfeit operation. Most importantly, they rip off and defraud consumers,” Supreme New York wrote.
The brand went on to say it would “continue to pursue action globally” against the “fraudulent parties.”
Supreme Italia has been able to operate largely unchecked in China due to the fact that it held two registered trademarks, both called “ITSupremeNow.”
China has long employed a first-to-file policy, favoring early registration over concerns of authenticity. Despite the fact that the Supreme New York name is widely known internationally, the brand’s IP is not protected under Chinese law as brand owners were beat to the punch in applying for trademarks.
Records from the CTMO reveal that Supreme has 85 pending trademark applications.
According to a report from the International Law Office, an online legal journal, those laws are set to change later this year. On Nov. 1, 2019, China will enact a revision of the trademark law that will focus on the proliferation of trademarks and enforcement against infringers.
Luxury brands in particular have approached China with trepidation due to rampant reports of counterfeiting. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report in April, identifying 36 countries including China as most concerning in the arena of IP infringement and fakes.