Marion Savary (Vinted): “Vinted maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards counterfeit goods”

Strong growth, in addition to strategic product development, has seen Vinted become a top brand in several European markets. The Lithuanian company's IP legal manager, Marion Savary, discusses ESG issues, counterfeiting and some of the other challenges facing the online marketplace.

Posté le Monday, August 1st 2022
Marion Savary (Vinted): “Vinted maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards counterfeit goods”

Leaders League: Where did the initial idea for the platform come from?
Marion Savary: Vinted was founded in 2008 in Lithuania by Milda Mitkute and Justas Janauskas, as a solution to a very relatable personal problem - an overflowing closet. As Milda was about to move from her hometown in Lithuania to Vilnius, she realized she owned too many clothes and that they could be put to good use. 

The solution she came up with was to create an online platform where her friends could see the clothes she was giving away and choose the ones they’d like to take. Justas offered his help and built the website. Vinted was launched for a small circle of Milda’s friends and became an instant hit in Lithuania. So really, our first market was Lithuania. 

What is your brand's international strategy?
Our mission, to make second hand first choice, is a global mission: we believe it’s important for there to be a global shift in how people consume fashion, and for that shift to take place it’s important that we don’t only focus on one market. 

Could you tell us a bit about some other key markets?
We do have more mature markets such as France and Germany - in terms of number of members. Germany was one of the first markets we launched, we have now expanded our platform to 16 countries in Europe and North America, led by CEO Thomas Plantenga. We have a strong community of more than 65 million registered members globally, with a core audience of women aged 18-35. 

The majority of our teams are located in Vilnius, but we also have a Berlin office that is getting bigger all the time, with smaller offices in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Prague. We find this centralized approach works for us and helps to keep costs down, which is ultimately of benefit to our members. 

Does this mean that you don’t have the same brand across the globe?
Vinted is our core brand, and the name under which our marketplace is known in all countries in which we operate. And, as Vinted is a strong asset, we’ve drawn on it to launch our own dedicated shipping brand under the name Vinted Go.

It’s important for there to be a global shift in how people consume fashion

There was one exception, however, in Germany. In 2009 Vinted launched two platforms under the local names ‘Kleiderkreisel’ (for adults and the general population) and ‘Mamikreisel’ (for parents looking for children’s clothing and other items). In early November 2020, we merged these two platforms into one and rebranded them as Vinted, to ensure consistency with our other markets. From now on, when we launch in new markets - for example in Canada and Portugal which we launched in 2021 - we do so as Vinted. 

How do you manage your portfolio, what are the main risks you need to take into account?
One of the IP team’s key missions is to build a strong brand. This entails making sure our assets are distinctive and always used in a consistent manner. We work closely together with the business on this to help them identify our key distinctive assets and educate them on the consequences of making changes from an intellectual property standpoint. It also entails seeking the best protection. This strategy is reflected in our portfolio.

We manage our portfolio internally, together with the help of one external agent. They are responsible for bridging the gap with their network of local agents. This ensures having only one point of contact who has the visibility over all our filings, registrations and subsequent proceedings. A key project and challenge for the IP team has been to strengthen Vinted’s portfolio and develop an enforcement strategy, in particular against non-traditional infringements such as impersonating applications. 

How did you build your IP department?
We are a young IP team which was formally created in March 2019 when Alya Bloum, senior legal director, joined Vinted. The team has more than tripled since then and expansion is still rolling out. It is currently composed of myself, as IP legal manager, and two Senior IP legal counsel. Vinted’s IP team is a truly European one, with people from various cultural and legal backgrounds, and this enables us to look at a problem from many different angles.

Each of the team members has a thirst for tech and is eager to work on cutting-edge legal issues. Senior lawyer Skirmanta Balseviciene focuses on tech-related matters, as well as on consumer and advertising law, alongside Pauline Monier, a senior lawyer with more than ten-years’ experience in online brand-enforcement strategy at a luxury fashion brand. Their geographical location echoes their areas of focus. Skirmanta is based at our headquarters, in Vilnius, close to the business, and Pauline, in Paris, close to many fashion and luxury brands’ IP departments. 

Vinted is at the heart of the circular economy.  What are the biggest areas of ESG risk? In striving to make second-hand people’s first choice, we want to promote a change in consumption habits in favor of reuse. This means we try to encourage our members to ‘re-activate’ what’s lying in the bottom of their wardrobes. We do this according to the principles of the circular economy: if people choose to buy something that already exists, and yet is no longer used, the product they’re buying skips the production chain, helping to address the overproduction of goods. 

Packaging is a big issue in relation to sustainability, especially when it comes to sending parcels by mail. What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?
According to a study by Waste and Resources Action Program, UK (WRAP), a 10% increase in second-hand sales in the UK would make carbon, water and waste savings of 3%, 4% and 1% respectively per tonne of clothing. (Valuing our clothes: the cost of UK fashion, 2017)  Bearing this in mind, we aim to help people understand how valuable their items can be, so they can progressively move towards a more conscious and long term pattern of consumer behavior.

We focus on pick up/drop off, which in general are more environmentally friendly than in-home delivery options

While the most negative impact of fashion, around 70%, happens during the production phase (Fashion on climate report, McKinsey, 2020) of course we know that shipping is also damaging to the environment. That’s why we focus on PUDO [pick up drop off] options, which in general are more environmentally friendly than in-home delivery options. 

How do you tackle counterfeiting?
We see intellectual property as a key company asset. This is why we have global trademark, domain name and company name system of monitoring in place. As an online platform and successful app, we also keep tabs on app stores and social networks.

We do not hesitate to enforce our IP assets when we identify infringing acts that could either mislead our users or even dilute, blur or tarnish our assets. When it comes to third-parties’ IP, in terms of anticounterfeiting, Vinted’s IP team strategy is clear, with a zero-tolerance policy and an open willingness to cooperate with IP right owners.

Selling counterfeit items is strictly prohibited on Vinted marketplace and we’re committed to fighting this issue, which we know is a challenging issue for much of the fashion industry. We have a clear policy that helps protect our members, and our teams are constantly reviewing processes, actively working on improving and developing tools and procedures to help our members trade safely. We also give our members the possibility to report other members when problems arise. 

How do you authenticate the origin of the brands that use your site?
Vinted marketplace is a hosting provider, meaning that it hosts content published by third-party users. As sellers fully own the listing process, we do not guarantee the authenticity of products, but do provide our community with tips and advice for trading on our platform. We recommend uploading as many official documents as possible, such as detailed photos, receipts and certificates from the original purchase. We make it possible for sellers to upload up to 20 pictures per item.

However, we have established a comprehensive set of measures against counterfeiting and encourage IP rights holders, as well as our users, to report infringing listings. This enables us to remove harmful content from our catalogue before a transaction occurs. 

When buying on Vinted, if the transaction was completed via our integrated payment system, the buyer has the option to cancel the transaction within two days after the delivery, and report their doubts about the item received to our CS teams, whether they are in relation to the authenticity of the product or if an item does not adequately match the initial description. Our teams look further into each case, and always ask both the buyer and seller for additional information, before making any decision about a potential refund, return or other action. 

How do you avoid fraud and concealment?
One key project of the IP team has been to join the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the sale of counterfeit goods on the internet in October 2021. This voluntary agreement, facilitated by the European Commission, prevents counterfeited goods from appearing in online marketplaces.

In April 2022, we also launched a new reporting tool dedicated to IP rights owners designed to make it easier for them to report IP infringing content. Reports are automatically assigned to a specific team, providing an improved way to process. 

 

 

 

Sophie Stevenard