THE Harris Tweed Authority has appointed an online guardian in its battle against fakes.

The body was formed in 1993 to promote and maintain the “authenticity, standard and reputation” of the famous cloth.

Last year the fabric’s trademark, known as the Orb, was officially recognised as a coat of arms. However, the authority is constantly fighting fakers who pass off lower-grade material as the hand-woven tweed. Now it has enlisted Edinburgh’s SnapDragon Monitoring to scour social media, ecommerce and auction sites in a clamp down on the counterfeiters.

The company specialises in the protection of intellectual property.

Lorna MacAulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, said: “It has taken generations to build the Harris Tweed brand into the popular global phenomena we see today.

“It is our job to guard against unauthorised use of the brand and we take that role very seriously.

“SnapDragon Monitoring will help us to continue to do that effectively in the digital world and protect our reputation in the eyes of businesses who invest in Harris Tweed and the customers who buy their products.”

The Orb mark is the oldest British certification mark in continuous use and may only be used on, or in relation to, genuine Harris Tweed cloth or products.

Legislation from 1993 states that the fabric must be “handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun” on the islands.

In recent years the authority has taken action against the misuse of the Orb including forgery of the recognisable Harris Tweed labels in a bid to fool consumers into purchasing items with no connection to the high quality material, which is a favourite with design houses including Vivienne Westwood, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.

Rescued from the verge of collapse in the mid-2000s, the industry produced 1.5 million metres of the cloth last year, a slight dip on 2015, but a major improvement on 2009 when output was just 455,000m.

SnapDragon Monitoring already works with Edinburgh costume firm Morphsuits, Roslin-based baby gear outfit Cheeky Chompers and East Kilbride glassmaker Glencairn Crystal, amongst others.

Last year it prevented the sale of counterfeit goods worth as much as $10 billion.

Its chief executive officer Rachel Jones said: “Brands work hard to build trust but counterfeiting can easily destroy it.

“The Harris Tweed Orb is one of the most recognisable trademarks in fashion, which makes it a target for fakes. Our team of experts will work to eliminate the sale of Harris Tweed counterfeits online and protect its reputation for the future.”