What You Should Know About Fragrance Clones

Fragrance Clones

What is a Fragrance Clone?

Lately I've noticed a sharp increase in advertising for fragrance clones.  They are easily identified by messages like "Inspired by Creed Aventus", or "If you like Dior's Sauvage, then you'll love {insert clone name here}".  So then...what exactly is a fragrance clone?  Put simply, it is a manufacturer's best attempt to copy  a formula originally created by another company or independent perfumer.  It is then given a new name, different packaging, and a lower price.  Rather than take the difficult path of originality and creativity, clone houses simply piggyback off the success of others and bypass the difficult work of developing an original creation.  Regardless of whether they are cloning the product of an independent niche perfumer or a major design house, it's an unethical business model.

Are fragrance dupes/clones legal?

Yes, fragrance dupes/clones are legal.  The primary reason that fragrance clones are legal is that a smell cannot be patented.  Only the brand name, perfume name, description, and packaging can be protected by law.  Perfume companies could patent products, but in order to do so they would have to disclose their formulas.  Their trade secrets would then become public information, thus ensuring that near exact duplicates would be made.  As long as copycats altered formulas enough to avoid litigation yet retain the integrity of the original fragrance, the original manufacturer would have no way to stop them.

Who cares? What's the problem?

If customers are getting essentially the same fragrance for a lower price, that's a good thing, right?  Isn't that the free market at work?  I believe it is neither, because the process of creating a clone begins with the appropriation of intellectual property which is even regarded as a "trade secret" by the FDA.  This is why perfume manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients on their packaging.  Then how are clones made?  It begins with the chemical analysis of an original formula through a process called "gas chromatography–mass spectrometry" (GC/MS).  This analysis separates and quantifies the aromatic molecules in a fragrance composition.  The resulting output is accurate enough to create very convincing counterfeits.  And that, in my opinion, is where the issue lies.  Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that someone were to legally access to the formula vault at Firmenich (the world's largest privately held fragrance manufacturer).  If that person were then to steal or even duplicate Firmenich's formulas, that would certainly be considered theft of trade secrets and result in prosecution.  In fact, here's an example of such an occurrence.

Conclusion

While fragrance clones are legal, I consider the business model of fragrance clone "houses" to be unethical.  It is based entirely on reverse engineering the work of others, and riding on the coattails of the original creators.  


So...what can be done about it?  To start, consumers who agree with the sentiment of this post should buy original perfumes rather than fragrance clones.  Anything beyond that is a matter for experts in the law (which I am not) to debate.  However, there is an interesting article here that advocates for copyright protection of perfumes.

I hope you've found this post to be thought provoking!  Leave your comments below whether you agree or disagree!

5 comments

As an indie perfumer who uses premium quality materials + organic perfumer’s alcohol, I can vouch for my comrades in saying the reason our prices are not the same as dupes is because our work is art and creativity. We spend countless hours perfecting just one fragrance from many trials and the usage of materials that we can’t get back, in an effort to create a scented art piece that others can enjoy. If we didn’t price our work accordingly, we’d be in the hole trying to undersell. Some materials alone are $100’s of dollars just for 5g. Though I certainly understand the desire to experience what may be considered a more expensive fragrance for less, it’s the intellectual property of the perfumer that’s “copied” for pennies on the dollar that disturbs me. Why don’t these companies partner with the actual perfumer to create a lesser expensive version, like an EDT or EDC? Unless a fragrance is truly discontinued, this rubs me the wrong way as a creative.

Chavalia Mwamba November 15, 2023

I’ll bet dollars to donuts that there are folks who actually purchase the high end products after trying the dupes, so these high end products aren’t 100% losing in this scheme. I’m making a bold statement here because I’m one of those folks who does just that. I purchased an inspired by parfum for Creed Aventus. I never heard of Aventus before, so what did I do? I bought the genuine bottle to compare. I’m probably going to buy the genuine fucking fabulous soon, as well as creed Viking. Basically, some folks just don’t live next to a Macy’s or Nordstrom to sample these parfums, so instead of spending 20 bucks on a vial of the real deal online, we can get a 30ml dupe for ten more bucks. For me, it works

Jeff May 21, 2023

Jason and Jesper,

A False Dichotomy (aka “false dilemma” or “all-or-nothing”) is a logical fallacy in which only two extreme options are presented, when others are possible. This precisely describes your arguments. You’ve both ignored the fact that there are countless high quality fragrances that are very affordable. A quick search of perfume.com returned nearly 500 men’s fragrances in the $25-$50 range.

Additionally, the statements regarding rich people are another logical fallacy called “Appeal to Emotion”. In this case, that emotion is envy. It is intended to evoke a sense of resentment towards the wealthy, and distract from the ethical issues surrounding the production of fragrance clones.

Your comments also imply that the high cost of original fragrances is unreasonable and unjust, and that everyone should have access to luxury goods regardless of their income. To what other product category do you apply this logic? Food? Housing? Transportation? Clothing? The closest comparison I can think of is the production of counterfeit leather goods which, at least in the U.S., is illegal.

Chris May 09, 2023

I’m a big fan of duplicate fragrances, currently i have around 15 or 16 I swap between.
If the real frangrances weren’t so ridiculously expensive there would be no need for copies in the first place.
Smelling good is not the exclusive preserve of the rich.

Jason Clark May 09, 2023

I disagree. I would never ever be able yo enjoy “ Fucking Fabulous “ or “ Baccarat rouge 540 “ if not for dupes. What you are saying is that only Rich people can have that luxury?

Jesper Bech Nielsen March 01, 2023

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