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Luxury Watchmakers Crack Down on Copycat Android Wear Watch Faces

New fashion trend: Android Wear smartwatches emerge as a platform for replicas of luxury watch faces.

The fashion industry has struggled for years to combat the flood of counterfeit Coach and Kate Spade handbags and other luxury goods sold on Canal Street in lower Manhattan, the Silk Street Market in Beijing and elsewhere around the world.

Now a new platform has emerged for copies of luxury goods: Android Wear smartwatches.

One site, FaceRepo, provides a repository of watch-face downloads for Motorola’s Moto 360, LG’s G series and Samsung Gear smartwatches, with several sporting the familiar look and logo of high-end timepieces.

Among the downloads currently popular on FaceRepo are a self-described “copy” of the $3,000 Oyster Perpetual by Rolex, a steampunk watch face that’s a dead ringer for the $14,000 Devon Tread1 E Time Belt and a digital doppelgänger for the CT Scuderia timepiece, which retails for more than $3,000.

FaceRepo’s founder confirmed he has received take-down notifications from several major watch companies or their legal representatives, including IWC, Panerai, Fossil, Armani, Michael Kors, Omega, Tissot, Certina, Swatch and Flik Flak. He said the site, which serves as a marketplace for Android Wear downloads, removes such watch faces immediately.

“Although some of the replica faces we’ve received take-downs for are very cool looking and represent significant artistic talent on the part of the designer, we believe that owners of copyrights or trademarks have the right to defend their brand,” FaceRepo’s founder, who identified himself only as Luke, said via email.

TorrentFreak first reported the dispute with watch makers.

Several luxury brands did not respond to requests seeking comment, but the Swatch Group said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to FaceRepo and other Web platforms promoting watch face apps that resemble its products.

“The Swatch Group is strongly committed to protecting its brands’ trademarks, designs and their copyrights and, therefore, cannot tolerate such non-authorized digital replicas of its products,” said Bastien Buss, a corporate spokesperson

Fredrick Felman, chief marketing officer for MarkMonitor, a division of Thomson Reuters that works with brands to combat online counterfeiting and copyright infringement, said trademark and copyright laws can guard against such unauthorized digital imitation.

Brand names and logos, for instance, are typically protected by trademark — though they can sometimes be copyrighted, as well, Felman said. Companies also can safeguard a product’s distinctive design by registering its “trade dress” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Apple ran afoul of these trade dress protections when it copied Mondaine’s iconic Swiss railway clock — with its white face, sweeping red second-hand and rectangular blocks in place of numbers — on iPads and iPhones without permission. Apple paid $21 million for the right to use the clock design (now modified) as an app provided along with its mobile operating system.

FaceRepo is not alone in offering downloadable watch faces with a certain deja vu quality.

Android Wear apps available through the Google Play store tout Rolex watch faces with the look of the Rolex GMT-Master II timepiece, which sells for as much as $37,000, “for little money.” Another offering, the Grand 360, bears a striking resemblance to the Tag Heuer Grand Carrera, retailing for $8,500 to $11,000.

Google has yet to launch the segment of the Play store devoted to Android Wear watch faces — that’s expected by the end of the year. It has urged developers to wait while it works on a simple way for third-party developers to create watch faces in a way that conserves battery life, among other considerations. The apps that are already out have largely flown under the radar.

“We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” said a Google spokesperson.

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