Whether you’re just starting out, or are a seasoned business owner, protecting your brand from copycats and counterfeits should always be near the top of your priority list. The fact is, the longer you leave it to protect your products, the harder it can be to take down fakes that infringe on your intellectual property later on. So, here are the 5 essential steps you should take to protect your business and your customers from fraudsters who want to rip-off your ideas and divert hard earned revenue from your business.
1. Register your design, trademarks and patents
This is the most important part of protecting your intellectual property. Many small businesses fail to register their intellectual property [IP] and pay dearly when their original works are copied and stolen.
Intellectual property is territorial, so if you want to protect yourself in the UK and the US, you should register in the UK and the US. We also recommend registering as much IP as you can in every territory/country in which you trade – and possibly also in China if you are likely to be manufacturing overseas.
So what can you protect?
- Trademarks – A trademark is a word, phrase or symbol that is unique to your business such as a logo, strapline, or name. Trademarks are relatively simple to register and cheap. They can be worth their weight in gold if you have to defend yourself against imposters.
- Designs – Any design that is unique to your product, for example the appearance, shape, or decoration. Design Rights do not cover the function of your product.
- Patents – These are exclusive rights for original inventions. They can be complex and expensive to protect around the world, but for certain products are invaluable.
2. Learn about copyright
Copyright is an automatic international right under law, and includes literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Copyright prevents people who may look to copy, unlawfully distribute or adapt your original creation for their own personal gain– this includes someone using one of your photos, without permission, online. In most countries copyright lasts for life plus 50 years for literary, dramatic and artistic work, and 25 years at minimum for photographic and other works.
Copyright can be used to prove originality. So if someone is misusing your work, you can complain.
Where possible, make it clear you understand Copyright Law:
- Display a copyright notice on exhibition stands, on your website, on published works, etc.
- Use the copyright symbol ©. This will help to deter would-be copycats and enforces the fact you will take action if your copyright is breached.
- Keep verifiable proof that you own the work, such as the dates and times that the material was created and distributed.
3. Collect evidence of infringement
If you find a product online that is infringing your original works, you need to gather evidence around the copy and the original.
- What has been copied? (words/images/trademark/video etc).
- Where has it been used? (by a website/by another seller on a site/at an exhibition etc).
- Gather the proof with a link/photograph/screen grab etc.
Make sure you have a link to the infringing listing. Find the name of the seller and the price. All this is valuable evidence.
To take action, you need to have the relevant intellectual property in place for the territory in which the infringing item is being sold. If not, you may have to consider extending your IP portfolio.
4. Enforce your intellectual property
Once you have identified infringing listings and gathered your evidence, report and takedown the listing. We have several helpful articles on how to do this on the most popular ecommerce platforms:
- How to remove a fake on Amazon
- How to remove a fake on ebay
- How to remove a fake from Walmart marketplace
- How to remove a fake from Etsy
- How to protect your brand on social media
5. Regularly monitor
Fakes never stop… And so, it is extremely important to keep on top of your brand protection strategy. Finding all the fakes and enforcing your intellectual property rights takes time and money away from the every-day tasks of running your business. That’s where SnapDragon comes in. Monitoring ecommerce, social media and domains for copycat products is what we do, 24×7, for our clients. Our proprietary software identifies infringing products, and sellers, and our talented multi-national team of brand protection specialists takedown the listings that are harming your reputation, your customers and your revenue.
We would love to hear from you and offer a free brand check and demonstration on how we can protect your business from fakes.