Qatar-backed retailers in war against fake goods

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From Harrods to Louis Vuitton, a number of iconic brands owned or part-owned by Qatar have recently come out in force against the increasing spread of fake goods.

Qatar Holding bought Harrods, the Knightsbridge London store, in 2010 for a reported £1.5bn ($2.4bn) from Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed and has spent around £250m upgrading the legendary retailer.

In an interview this week, Michael Ward, the department store’s managing director, spoke out against the growing online trade in forged Harrods merchandise and called on internet search engines to be made more accountable.

“Take any internet search engine, type in a fake brand and you will get results. That is totally unacceptable,” Ward told the Daily Mail newspaper. “We don’t ask for subsidies. But there are certain things we do ask for, such as the protection of intellectual property and a level playing field in the digital arena. If you speak to any of the service providers they will wash their hands and say ‘Ah, but we’re only a search engine and we can’t do anything about this’. It’s irresponsible.

“All these companies making vast profits in overseas tax havens have the resources to do something about this. They should be penalised or legislated against to encourage them to act,” he added, speaking at an event in Strasburg on the subject.

Some progress has been made in the war against fake goods, as demonstrated by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), the French luxury goods conglomerate part owned by Qatar.

Last week, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and eBay settled a long-running court battle over the sale of counterfeit luxury goods on the US company's online auction website, Reuters reported.

The companies are implementing cooperative measures aimed at protecting intellectual property rights and fighting the online sale of counterfeit goods.

"Thanks to our joint efforts, consumers will enjoy a safer digital environment globally," the companies said in a joint statement, without giving detail on the measures.

A host of perfume and cosmetic brands under the LVMH umbrella, including Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain, sued the world's leading online auctioneer in 2008, accusing the site of allowing trade in counterfeit goods. LVMH also claimed that the sale of real perfumes through non-approved distribution channels such as eBay hurt its business.

In 2008 a French court ordered eBay to pay LVMH €38.5 million ($52.1 million). A subsequent appeal court reduced the sum to €5.7 million but affirmed that eBay had been in the wrong.

In 2012 a French appeal court ruled that a lower court did not have jurisdiction over eBay's US website but upheld the ruling as applied to its French and British sites.

LVMH was formed by the 1987 merger of fashion house Louis Vuitton with champagne and liquor maker Moët Hennessy. Sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding holds a 1.03 percent interest in the company, which was valued at around €699m last year.

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