Luxury retailers have been fighting counterfeiters with private investigators, cooperation with police, and lawsuits for decades, and that effort has been ramping up recently.

Back in May, Coach (NYSE: COH) announced that its new anti-counterfeiting program, "Operation Turnlock" would involve civil litigation against all parties involved in counterfeiting, regardless of size.But according to a new study (PDF) from MIT's Sloan School of Management, luxury goods manufacturers should be sending counterfeiters Christmas cards instead of subpoenas.

Professor Renee Richardson conducted a two-and-a-half-year survey of counterfeit buyers and real deal buyers, and found that 40% of people who buy counterfeits end up buying the real thing, partly because they realize the inferiority of the fakes.

Richardson also found that people can identify fakes more easily when they see them on the person wearing or carrying them. Context is key, and a Louis Vuitton bag with an Aeropostale T-shirt and Wrangler jeans probably isn't the real deal.

None of the leading luxury couturiers would provide Women's Wear Daily with a comment on the study's findings, but the research could perhaps help them use marketing instead of lawsuits to dissuade consumers from opting for knockoffs. If you're going to end up buying the real thing anyway, why waste your money on fakes?

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