By moving into footwear, outerwear, watches, and accessories, as well as its traditional optical wear, Oakley has doubled its turnover in just three years with its sales approach a half-billion dollars annually.
They say imitation is the purest for of flattery, but by becoming a highly recognizable and increasing fashionable brand, Oakley is also suffering from the attention of counterfeiters who are knocking off cheap imitations of its technical and pricey sunglasses.
The counterfeit products are sold openly at venues such as flea markets for around $10.
To counteract the rip offs and to protect its brand, Oakley has equipped its entire force of 110 reps with a stack of “Cease and Desist” notices. These carry sufficient legal weight for reps to immediately impound any fakes they find. And by threatening heavy-handed legal action they can force sellers of the counterfeits to reveal the factories from which they buy their goods.
“So far the A&E channel has shown a couple of documentaries of SWAT teams with up to 40 members raiding factories which are making the phonie Oakleys,” says Russel Moore, watch brand manager, at the SIA Show in Las Vegas.
“We want to make the point clearly that you can rip off Rolex, rip off Levis, but if you mess with Oakley, we are going to come down very very hard. We have about 450 patents ¿ they cost us a lot and we mean to protect them.”
The focus on safeguarding its designs means the company has appointed Vance Loemmen as full-time dedicated “director of loss protection” and its corporate attorneys are busy and well fed. “We always pursue,” says Moore. “Last year an Isreali jeweler took off with over a dozen of our watches as well as product from several other companies that he didn’t pay for. First we tracked down his sister in Miami and convinced her to give up his phone number. Then we tracked him down to his store in Tel Aviv and paid him an unannounced visit. You can be sure we got our product back.”