Samsung Criticized for Partnership with Fake Supreme Brand in China

Image: Screenshot - Samsung Weibo livestream at the partnership announcement event

The Supreme brand has become a well-known icon with the bright red logo emblazoned across a wide-swath of fashion wear and other products.

And then there’s the other “Supreme” – the Italy-based brand “Supreme Italia” that the original Supreme US has been unable to stop from producing under the same name and branding due to an oversight in trademark registration in a handful of markets.

Now Samsung, rather than partnering with the original Supreme, has instead signed a partnership agreement with the fake brand which has been allowed to push their wares in the Chinese market.


 

The brand we are collaborating with is Supreme Italia, not Supreme US. Supreme US doesn’t have the authorization to sell and market in China. Whereas the Italian brand got the APAC (except Japan) product retail and marketing authorization.

Supreme Italia was able to establish a trademark for itself to sell “legal fake” goods as a locally-registered business that operates in a gray area of intellectual property law. While they are indeed appropriating the trademark and logo they are legally protected to do so based on decisions by Italian courts citing a lack of rights by Supreme US in Italy.

Supreme US has sued Supreme Italia (and a Spanish version) over the infringement but local judges found in favor of the local brands, granting the companies freedom to sell their products in those countries.

Expanding with Samsung in China

During a launch event for the Galaxy A8s, streamed via the official Samsung Mobile account on Weibo in China, the South Korean electronics giant announced the Samsung-Fake Supreme partnership. Supreme Italia additionally announced its intent to expand storefronts in China starting next year, with Samsung as its first major partner.


 

Neither said what types of products it would collaborate on.

Following the event, one Weibo user wrote: “Samsung must have been fooled by this man and his knock-off brand,” read one comment reported by Jing Daily, which added that the topic has gone viral on Chinese social media, having been viewed over 19 million times.

In response to criticism, which was published widely in the American media today, Samsung openly acknowledged that they are partnering with a fake Supreme, but for them, it’s a question of practicality as Supreme Italia is licensed in China – where Samsung is hoping the popularity of the fake brand will boost sales.

Samsung China’s digital marketing manager, Leo Lau, answered criticism on his Weibo.

“The brand we are collaborating with is Supreme Italia, not Supreme US. Supreme US doesn’t have the authorization to sell and market in China. Whereas the Italian brand got the APAC (except Japan) product retail and marketing authorization.”

Supreme US made it quite clear that they have no partnership with Samsung and that they “real” Supreme is not part of the deal. They issued a statement saying:

 “Supreme is not working with Samsung… these claims are blatantly false and propagated by a counterfeit organization.”

Copyright infringement is alive and well in China, but consumers are starting to reject such blatant moves. Recently, a Chinese company named OXN tried to launch its own fake Supreme brand – going so far as to hire an actor to pose as Supreme founder James Jebbia.

Following the announcement, Chinese consumers didn’t take well to the blatant rip-off, however. As the JingDaily reported, Chinese consumers rebelled against OXN. “Well, that’s the end of OXN. No one will buy from them now” said one Weibo commenter.

Samsung must have been fooled by this man and his knock-off brand, said one Weibo user on a viral post following the partnership.

In response to the Samsung-Fake Supreme announcement, one Weibo user urged Supreme Italia to get out of China and wondered if Samsung thought Chinese consumers “would fall for this? Do they think we don’t care if it’s real?”

Perhaps Samsung was blinded by desperation –  the brand’s market share has plunged to 0.8 percent from 20 percent in 2012, according to the market research firm Strategy Analytics.

Time will tell how it plays out for Samsung, a brand whose Malaysian division was just this month exposed for using a stock photo in an ad heralding the portrait mode feature on the Galaxy A8 Star.

 

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