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A guide to intellectual property protection

ANTI-COUNTERFEITING
BRAND PROTECTION
IP PROTECTION
November 21, 2022

Join us as we dive into the world of online sales monitoring and control, and discover the importance of intellectual property protection in an effective sales strategy.

Do you want to know if your brand is at risk online?
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Intellectual property is considered the creation of the mind, so for a brand this consists of brand name, logo, inventions, designs, images, copy, slogans, domain names, and product names. Once a brand registers these elements they are protected under a trademark law making it illegal for third-parties to copy or use them without the brand owner's consent.

It takes innovation, and significant resources to develop a strong brand and position it within chosen markets, and therefore a brand's intellectual property protection is key, and surely worth protecting… isn't it? But what threatens a brand's intellectual property as the digital world expands?

What are the threats to a brands intellectual property

There are five key threats to a brand's intellectual property which are becoming more widespread in parallel to today's digital ecosystem. Understanding these dangers is the first step to delivering a successful online business strategy. Let's take a look at these five primary threats (which are making intellectual property protection a necessity) in more detail:

1. Counterfeit products refer to the trade of fake branded products which are designed to look and feel like an authentic item. This is achieved through the unauthorized use of intellectual property. It's an illicit market which is forecast to generate over 3 trillion US dollars in 2022. These fakes damage the revenue and reputation of official brands, and are often made of low-quality or even harmful materials and ingredients which can pose a danger to the end user. 

Counterfeiters promote these fake branded products throughout various digital channels. They often appear alongside authentic products within digital marketplaces or social networks, but despite the efforts of certain platforms, counterfeiters are constantly adopting new strategies to avoid detection from product or brand monitoring technologies such as blurring or removing the brand logo, or misspelling the brand or product name whilst ensuring that it is still easy to recognize for online shoppers. 

2. Fake (rogue) websites are set up with the intention of deceiving online shoppers, often achieved through the use of intellectual property without the brand owner's consent. By imitating the design and layout, and adopting domain names which may differ from the authentic name by just a single letter or word. Approximately 18,000 fraudulent websites are created each day, many of which facilitate the sale of counterfeit products, or the theft of financial or personal information through malware. There are a variety of ways to identify these fake sites, although they are becoming increasingly sophisticated and harder to detect, not only for brand owners, but online shoppers too.

3. Social media impersonation is a form of digital identity theft whereby a malicious actor steals a brand's identity with the intention of scamming users across various social networks. In fact in 2022, 40% of the infringements on social media were related to brand impersonation or spoofing. This can include the creation of a page or an account that often shares access to rogue websites, or directly promotes counterfeit products. 

4. Copyright piracy: refers to the unauthorized / unlawful sharing, or duplication of audiovisual content such as movies, series, music, software, video games, or editorial content. This content is often shared through social networks or within streaming or direct download websites (DDL). The value of audio-visual content, specifically the rights to live sporting events have a very high value and short lifespan, making the speed and detection of such infringements the primary factor.

5. Trademark squatting: is where a third-party registers a trademark linked to your brand or product with the intention of either selling it back in the future for an inflated price, or to piggyback or free ride on your success. Opportunists often search for gaps in a brands registration strategy, for example, filing for trademarks in countries where the official brand does not currently operate (but may wish to expand to in the future).

Why prioritize intellectual property protection?

Intellectual property protection for brand owners must be considered a primary feature within any successful digital distribution strategy. Failure to do so can have lasting and catastrophic effects. Let's take a look:

 

Loss of revenue is perhaps considered the most obvious threat to a brand, afterall profit or loss is one of the key indicators of a successful or failing business. In today's crowded digital environment, competitors are already creating noise which makes it harder to be heard and stand out from the crowd to generate sales, but many brands do not recognise that counterfeiters are in fact their biggest threat, deceiving your customers and stealing your online sales.

To put these losses into context, a statista report estimates that the clothing sector loses 26.3 billion euros per year, pharmaceuticals 10.2 billion euros, cosmetics and personal car 4.7 billion euros, watches and jewelry 1.9 billion euros, handbags and luggage 1.6 billion euros, toys and games 1.4 billion euros, and sports goods 0.5 billion euros each year. 

Revenue streams can be protected through product and brand monitoring, and taking down counterfeit listings on digital marketplaces, removing access to fakes by delisting rogue websites, and eliminating social posts which link to these fakes. 

Loss of control over brand image means that you no longer have control over what is being said or how consumers see your brand and products online. This may be caused by bad actors, or consumers who mention your business through online channels. 

Consumers not only discuss and share their opinions on your brand, but they also create content (user generated content). For this reason, retaining visibility of the various digital channels which includes product and brand monitoring on social networks is of great importance. The data gathered can be used to make powerful strategic decisions. 

Reputational damage is perhaps the most harmful and long lasting consequence of intellectual property abuse. If intellectual property protection is not in place, then consumers are at risk. The association through the illicit use of your intellectual property leaves you culpable in the eye of the consumer despite it being the actions of an unrelated third-party. The results can be devastating with negative comments and reviews, destroying consumer confidence and more specifically, trust in your brand.

A brand's reputation can take years to build and seconds to destroy, and depending on the industry in which you operate, failure to contract brand monitoring and intellectual property protection can result in a health risk to the end user.

Detrimental to growth, in both local and foreign markets if unauthorized or non-compliant resellers are not monitored and any unapproved activities are left unchallenged. 

Knowing who is selling your products, in which channels and markets, and for how much through product and brand monitoring is a basic part of any online digital distribution strategy. Failure to tackle grey market issues, parallel imports, and controlling online sellers can lead to irreversible damage to your future expansion plans.  

"Imagine entering a new market in a foreign country only to find that your products, or fake copies are already being traded here without your knowledge."

5-steps to intellectual property protection

The technology exists today which offers around the clock monitoring and intellectual property protection which is proven to keep your brand, products, content, and consumers safe online. These technologies or services take the strain off internal resources, and for a small investment many brands have seen big results. Our process at Smart Protection follows a 5-step process as we can see below:

1. Brand monitoring is the first step. Gaining and maintaining visibility of your brand and products in the online world should be a minimum requirement in today's digital environment. Sight and control of your online sales which includes who is selling  your products, in which channels and markets, and under what conditions is something that all brands must have. 

2. Detecting potential threats which may infringe on your intellectual property is easily achieved through intellectual property protection technology. It requires a small investment, but managing this process in-house is almost always less effective, more time consuming, and a significant drain on resources.

 

3. Analyzing the potential threats which have been found, and prioritizing their removal is the third step. Depending on the size of your brand, the number of channels in which your products are listed, the countries you operate in, and the nature of your online sales strategy, this can be a huge task.

4. Eliminating these threats requires know-how, and the steps vary considerably depending on the channel or region in question. Whilst there are processes in place for requesting that intellectual property infringements are removed from social networks, marketplaces, and within Google search results, the effort required to submit requests, and the speed in which action is then taken varies considerably.

5. Reporting is easy with Smart Protection. All the threats which have been detected, analyzed, and eliminated are housed within our secure user-friendly platform. Filter this data based on date, channel, and region, with links directly to the infringement. You also have the option to download reports in Excel format, allowing you to share it with your colleagues or stakeholders. The information found here can be used to make smarter strategic business decisions!

Conclusion

Avoiding intellectual property infringements altogether is unrealistic for most brands, however the importance of retaining visibility of your brand and products throughout various markets and channels cannot be stressed enough. As a market leader in monitoring and intellectual property protection, we see first hand the effect that intellectual property abuse can have on businesses of all shapes and sizes. 

As members of the Google Trusted Copyright Program (TCRP), and our relationships with numerous digital marketplaces and social networks we are able to monitor, detect, analyze, and eliminate intellectual property infringements quickly and efficiently. This safeguards your revenue and reputation and saves you time, money and resources. 

Hundreds of brands are already benefiting from our tailor-made monitoring and intellectual property protection!

Do you want to know if your brand is at risk online?
Talk to an expert

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