How Fraudsters Target Popular Festivals and What Brand Owners Can Do

By Irene Oh
Subject Matter Expert – Marketplace Enforcement (China)
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In mid-autumn, China celebrates the mooncake (or lantern) festival, which began when emperors worshipped the moon under the belief that it would give them a good harvest in the following years.

Popular celebration

The festival, which has become well-known throughout Asia, has become an important family celebration, in which people gather together to look at the night sky, children play with lanterns, and everyone enjoys eating mooncakes. The mooncakes themselves are part of the region’s gift-giving culture and are a popular way of signaling good wishes to friends and business partners. For globalized brands, the festival is an opportunity to target local markets and show sensitivity to their traditions.

Counterfeit cake packaging

However, as with many popular events, the mooncake festival has become a target of fraudsters, who sell fake mooncake packaging designed to resemble well-known brands. One example is a mooncake resembling the Peppa Pig franchise, but which is called “Dairy Pig.” The Starbucks logo has also been seen on mooncake packaging.

The potential for consumer harm

China’s fast-growing market for luxury brands is driven by the belief that overseas brands are of higher quality and value, and confer social status on the owner or gift-giver. For the majority of people who can’t afford the genuine article, buying a fake is the next best thing. With edible product such as mooncakes, the problem for brand owners is not just loss of revenue or reputation when fake goods steal their sales—it’s also potential for consumer harm if the food products being sold are of poor quality. It has been reported that 80% of fake food and drink seized by EU authorities in 2017 originated from China [1].

Catch fraud before the event

Wherever you are in the world, popular festivals are a commercial opportunity that will inevitably attract the attention of fraudsters. As a brand owner, you can protect yourself by monitoring relevant keywords before the event itself, including in local languages, to pre-emptively identify fraud. Online and offline enforcement can limit the amount of exposure that fake products have, reducing any impacts on your brand and reputation.

[1] Report on the EU customs enforcement of intellectual property rights: Results at the EU border, 2017,

Fake cakes and harvest moons