Over the past decade, the counterfeit handbag market outgrew the shadowy corners of New York City’s Canal Street and eventually came to stake out a prominent place online–in Google’s advertising machine. A 2005 French ruling found Google guilty of making it easy for counterfeiters to purchase trademarked Adwords belonging to big luxury brands. These would then point consumers to websites where they could buy imitation goods.
Then in 2010, a European Union court ruling allowed Google to once again sell those protected Adwords. Since then, Google has been tangled in a messy legal dispute with LVMH, the French conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, Céline, Marc Jacobs, Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, and dozens more luxury brands. While Google did have a system in place that allowed brands to flag illegal links that might infringe copyright, LVMH and other luxe-good makers argued that Google was not doing enough.
Today, Google and LVMH announced a truce. The two companies revealed a new partnership to curb the sale of fake luxury goods online, putting an end to the legal battle. In a joint statement, the brands said they would “develop new ways of engaging consumers online whilst preserving the value of trusted brands and enhancing creativity.” What that strategy entails is unclear, and both brands failed to give further details.
Brand dilution has forced some companies to rethink their strategies in the face of dwindling sales. Coach recently revealed plans to shutter 70 stores and re-brand as a “modern luxury company” instead of an “accessible luxury” company. In October 2013, Chinese web giant Alibaba said it would begin proactively removing listings that sold fake Louis handbags online.