The “made in Italy” brand has mainly become synonymous with high production competences, providing added value to the Italian production system, and, from this perspective, it takes the form of a collective asset, a heritage of great value that the Italian industry has inherited.
In fact, it is important to note that the brand “has not been created by the current generation”, in terms of both cultural heritage and manufacturing. Yet, today, “all those who want to” are able to use it (especially and unfortunately in improper form); it has become a “zero-cost” brand, as a kind of “revenue of a position”. But used in this way, the brand cannot thrive, especially in the long run. The main objective of this work is to analyze the concept of value of the “made in Italy” brand, with particular attention to its appropriation. It can be argued that the issue under study is approached with certain superficiality. The “made in Italy” brand presents a true advantage. Several studies underline that the outlook for this brand is particularly positive all over the world (Confindustria Prometeia, 2014), for example, considering the evolution of the income per capita in certain geographical areas and therefore the evolution of the number of wealthy, it is plausible to make predictions about the significant potential growth of the exports of Italian products in these areas. In such a context, several questions arise: Is “made in Italy” still relevant and significant for all industries and all products? Is it defended properly? Or is it taking unreasonable risks? How much does the “made in Italy” brand really matter? Then, the following aspects must be taken into consideration. It should be stressed that many foreign groups have acquired consolidated Italian brands (known and associated with the “made in Italy” concept), but do they continue to be “made in Italy”? Do they continue to be perceived as such? There is also the case of Italian companies (especially the fashion industry) that have adopted brands using foreign words (in order to promote the internationalization process). For further consideration, the textiles and clothing production from the Prato area is made entirely in Italy by Chinese entrepreneurs. Can it still be called “made in Italy”, not considering the Italian localization—that is obvious—but taking into account the Italian style and culture which distinguish these productions? Also, an improper use (counterfeiting, misleading mentions) of this brand can be noted. The result is a downward trend in quality and therefore cost, taking advantage of the same geographical origin (or, at least, making it feel as such). There is no effective protection of the quality and therefore of the brand; in this regard, a well-known aspect and source of concern for its effects lies in the “Italian sounding” in the food industry. The question arises regarding the real extent of the “made in Italy” heritage as well as its future prospects in light of the effects of these behaviors defined as “prodigal”.
Counterfeiting is a growing phenomenon undergoing an important evolution. As noted by Wilcock and Boys (2014), in the past, relatively small companies characterized the industry of counterfeit products, while during the last 10 to 15 years, the industry has radically changed: The phenomenon has gone from being located in little shops to a sophisticated, large-sized, and well-organized network with international distribution channels. The categories of imitated products have expanded considerably, including medicines, medical equipment, automotive parts, and even aircraft parts; in terms of sales channels, the role of the web should be noted, which has encouraged the expansion of the forgery market, making it also more difficult to contain. This problem notoriously afflicts different stakeholders: Consumers are unaware of the purchase of non-original products that appear to be inferior in quality and potentially risky to health; Companies with registered brands are obviously damaged, both for lower revenues and for the image damage that results in; the financial resources dedicated to the protection and monitoring of the brand must also be taken into account, which are diverted from the investment in business development; Counterfeiting alters the functioning of the market because of unfair competition that also puts the competitiveness of legitimate businesses at risk; The practice results in lost tax revenues for states; It should also be condemned from the ethical-social point of view, since the producers of counterfeit goods usually do not respect the laws and often employ underpaid employees who work in unbearable and unsafe conditions; the possible exploitation of child labor should also be noted; The opportunity for obtaining relatively high profits (compared to initial investments with limited risk), the difficulty of identifying and punishing those responsible (as production and sales are usually made in different countries), sentences that appear relatively mild justify the interest of organized crime, which has assumed a prominent role in this area. For the above-mentioned reasons, counterfeiting must be considered as a negative phenomenon, although someone (especially in relation to the fashion industry) can see the positive aspects. According to estimates from the International Chamber of Commerce (in 1985 it established the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau and in 2004 launched the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy), counterfeiting and “piracy” (this second term refers to copyright infringement) are presently developing a turnover of about 1,000 billion dollars a year and are stealing 2.5 million jobs. Estimates of the weight on the global trade value oscillate between 7% and 10%. “Made in Italy” and its most representative brands are among the most affected, especially the fashion sector and the food sector