The dupe phenomenon


Dupes (duplicates) stands for the Gen Z abbreviation of products that are intentionally designed to resemble or imitate popular or high-end items, usually with similar packaging, appearance or functionality. Dupes often emerge in response to popular trends or cult-favorite products. Dupes are openly marketed as alternative options to the original products, often at a lower price. Manufacturers of dupes typically market their products openly as alternatives or ”inspired by” certain brands; they are legitimate products which do not claim to be the original products. Dupes may even have their own branding to avoid confusion.

Counterfeits are unauthorized replicas or copies of branded products which are produced with the intent to deceive consumers into believing they are purchasing genuine items. Counterfeit products mimic the appearance, logos, trademarks, and packaging of the original products, aiming to pass off as authentic. Counterfeits are illegal, since they infringe protected intellectual property, such as trademarks and copyright.

Unfortunately, not many people understand the difference between look-alike dupes and illegal counterfeits.

Why dupes?

Anyone can climb the social hierarchy of popular designer items by taking a shortcut with a dupe. The attraction and aim of a product dupe is to get a desired look for less, and also to spread the details of the made purchase.

The rise of the dupe culture can be largely attributed to the influence of social media platforms like TikTok, where users showcase their affordable finds and encourage others to follow suit. The desire for cost-effective ways to achieve certain looks and the pressure to share purchases online have contributed to the popularity of dupes. Bloggers and influencers are actively promoting copycats – both dupes and counterfeits. The proliferation of counterfeits has raised concerns about intellectual property violations and the negative consequences associated with this trend.

The attraction and aim of a product dupe is to get a desired look for less, and also to spread the details of the made purchase.

Dupes have never been so openly purchased, worn and shown before. It has become an achievement and especially cool among young Generation Z to find and share the dupes of expensive designer goods. And TikTok has become a hub for trends and viral challenges. Presenting dupes has become a successful way to create content and the TikTok platform has greatly contributed to the rise of the dupes culture.

The most active TikTok users who range from Gen Z to millennials, are focused on continuously giving out a perfect image on social media, where a person’s outer appearance and lifestyle has become a significant trait. They are tirelessly following fashion trends, but do not necessarily have the income to buy original designer goods or high-end brands. Dupes are accessible to everyone, irrespective of social standing or budget.

Dodgy dupes

There are undoubtedly challenges related to the dupes trend. Fashion, appearance and style trends are constantly changing, and retailers, e-commerce marketplaces and fast fashion sites are more than happy to offer cheap low-quality goods to satiate the endless need without meeting environmental or social standards. The party to gain most from clothing and accessories dupes is the fast fashion industry as well as TikTok who takes a commission from sales made in the app’s shopping section.

As we cannot buy high-end versions of every fashion or lifestyle trend, consumers turn to cheaper, less reputable brands. In doing so, we forget all our principles about product quality and design to stay on top of trends and present the perfect online image of ourselves. In spite of the received criticism for the impact on the environment and the allegations of mistreatment of workers, fast fashion sales and the number of views are ever increasing. By opting for cheaper imitations, consumers prioritize affordability over quality and durability, contributing to the cycle of excessive consumption and waste.

By opting for cheaper imitations, consumers prioritize affordability over quality and durability, contributing to the cycle of excessive consumption and waste.

The dupes culture promotes duplicating existing ideas or content, which stifles creativity and limits the development of new and unique contributions. It may also inhibit progress and innovation by discouraging individuals from exploring new possibilities and instead favoring replication of what already exists. Ranking duplication higher than originality leads to a proliferation of low-quality imitations.

Focusing on quantity rather than quality can result in a lack of diversity and a homogenization of ideas and products. If duplication is encouraged and even celebrated, the efforts of individuals who have invested time and effort into developing and designing unique products become undervalued.

An increasing number of young content creators on various social networks are promoting not only acceptable dupes, but blatantly counterfeit goods and the videos “unboxing” these goods get millions of views. Influencers shape the perception of dupes and counterfeits as being trendy, sassy and not at all harmful.

Plagiarism and varying degrees of intellectual property violations are indisputably consequences associated with dupes. If people are encouraged to copy or reproduce without authorization or proper credit, it undermines the rights of creators and can definitely have legal consequences. Even if all dupes are not directly illegal, they can be at least morally dubious and have an impact on the value and goodwill of the original brands.

Ways to overcome problems associated with dupes

One way to overcome the problem with dupes is to increase public awareness about the negative consequences of dupes and to encourage consumers to make informed choices. We have to educate consumers about the importance of supporting original designs, the value of craftsmanship and the impact of infringing products on each industry sector and its workers. We must shift people’s attention and make it attractive to both design and use quality goods.

We must shift people’s attention and make it attractive to both design and use quality goods.

Further, we should make it socially acceptable to support a version of dupes that just takes inspiration from a certain design without copying it directly. Collaboration between designers, brands and manufacturers to create affordable fashion and other product lines for a wider range of consumers, would also help to bridge the gap between design items and affordable options. Especially fashion and lifestyle brands need to adopt ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices and to promote transparency or risk fake products becoming even more trendy among the younger generations.

We should also strengthen intellectual property legislation and enforcement practices to protect original creations. Encouraging designers and fashion brands to actively register their trademarks and copyrights whenever possible, would make it easier to identify and take legal action against infringing products.

Laura Roselius
IP Lawyer; Partner
Boco IP Oy Ab

Laura works as an IP lawyer with a focus on trademarks, brands and design protection worlwide.  Boco IP is an internationally operating Finnish firm specializing in intellectual property rights (IPR). The company offers a full range of services regarding all aspects of IP protection, maintenance and enforcement of intellectual property rights around the world.



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