Dupes in the Beauty, Cosmetic and Fashion World

“Dupes” in the beauty, cosmetic and fashion world carry a different connotation to its traditional definition. A dupe in this sense refers to a product that is made to look like a more expensive or high-quality product. (Note: the term dupes has grown so much in popularity that it’s also used to describe countless other products).

Demand for dupe products has sky rocketed in recent years from consumers seeking products that resemble luxury or high-end items, for a fraction of the price, especially during a cost of living crisis and amongst younger generations.

Social media platforms like TikTok have also popularised the use of dupes with many brands jumping on this marketing bandwagon.



Australian cosmetics giant MCoBeauty has attracted global attention for its popular beauty product dupes and has been in the spotlight recently sharing details of its product development (and how it navigates IP law).

While the multi-million-dollar business has faced legal hurdles before for its copycat cosmetics, MCoBeauty have a rigorous process in place to ensure its products don’t cause lawsuits.

Their external lawyer Len Mancini shared details of his role in the production process;

“I will search registered design databases, patent databases, trademark databases in Australia, overseas, all around the world, trying to work out what exactly it is the original product maker has protected.”

MCoBeauty founder Shelley Sullivan has said their use of “duping” is a marketing strategy, not its whole business model.

“This brand is all about luxe for less and providing quality products at a luxe-for-less price. Duping is what we call a pillar of our marketing strategy, and definitely not at the top of our funnel of how we market.”

Check out the ABC’s interview here with MCoBeauty where they shared more about their process, including having their lawyer explain some of the IP areas in question!


Patents and Beauty Dupes

Patents are rarely used in the beauty industry due to low levels of innovation in the sector to meet the threshold. A lot of the ingredients and processes used to develop products are very similar and in the highly competitive world of the beauty industry, many small business owners are competing against multi-million dollar companies with the funding to fight legal claims and/or pursue protection. A lot of small business owners say they simply don’t have the funds to compete on this level, even if they’ve pursued legal protection and another company creates a dupe of their product.

The ABC recently reported on how patents offer little protection for small business owners in the beauty world when it comes to dupes. They showcased business owner Iris Smit who founded the eyeliner brand Quick Flick in 2017 and has dealt with many dupes of her signature product.

Read more here.

And check out our article on Patents here.


Dupes in the Fashion World

While fashion trends come and go, so do consumer behaviours, with the demand for dupe fashion ever increasing.

Carefully pushing the boundaries of IP law, dupes are creating problems for fashion brands centred around:

Brand Dilution – the perceived value of luxury and high-end products and the exclusivity of these brands (and their associated IP) within the marketplace.

Impact on Sales – with more consumers choosing dupes over the original, high-end inspiration, this can affect sales over time.

Challenges in Innovation – impacting the development of innovative designs and positioning in the marketplace for those luxury products.

The Fashion Law have shared a fantastic article on this issue, head to read it here.

And don’t forget to check out our article on Legal Fakes, Counterfeit Products And Superfakes here.


Dupes in the Perfume Industry – Faking Fragrances

As with most dupe products, dupe perfumes are not intending to be counterfeits rather they are marketed as “inspired by..” whichever big brand name they are emulating. It’s a similar style to Aldi’s marketing of their products.

Dupe perfumes are huge business, as reported by Dazed Digital, some of the largest dupe perfume companies in the UK are Noted Aromas (which made £4 million in its first year of business) and The Essence Vault which has sold a million bottles in the UK since 2019.

You can read more here.

And check out our article on Aldi’s Business Model and Intellectual Property Law here.

Dupes are not going anywhere anytime soon. If you’re a business owner concerned about dupes, contact our intellectual property lawyers here for further advice and assistance.