Brand protection is a complex business – key to reputation, brand value/share price, customer loyalty and, crucially, customer safety. With the trade in counterfeits contributing almost USD$ 0.5trillion to the global economy annually, and increasing 25% year-on-year*, counterfeiting is no longer the domain of luxury goods. Increasingly, smaller brands with products costing £20 not £2000, are being faked and 12% of toys in the UK market are said to be counterfeit.**
Within the mix of brand protection mechanisms, online monitoring has a crucial role to play. Perhaps considered a ‘whack-a-mole’ process in the past, major platforms are making an effort to improve their own due diligence. There’s a long way to go but some online marketplaces, such as the Alibaba Group, have embraced the concept that SMEs don’t always have Chinese registered IP and will accept, on the outward facing platforms, non-Chinese IP in online defence. This is a game changer for the brand which firstly knows it has a problem and secondly is active about enforcing its non-Chinese IP against Chinese-based infringers.
Many of the platforms now have ‘repeat offender’ policies by which, if a seller is reported several times for IP infringement by one or several complainants – then the seller, their IP address, ID and associated bank details are all blacklisted and online sales activity prevented. The only option in re-listing is to use someone else’s ID card, IP address and create new banking records. Facebook and Instagram users who repeatedly post content that infringes someone else’s intellectual property rights may have their accounts disabled under the company’s repeat infringer policy. Similarly, Amazon sellers will see their selling privileges removed if they consistently infringe the platform’s policies on intellectual property rights.
Our Swoop monitoring tool
Monitoring the online marketplaces has therefore become a crucial role in brand protection for SMEs as well as the luxury brands. Our new Swoop monitoring tool enables lawyers, and brands, to monitor the busiest online marketplaces themselves, identifying and creating reports relating to potentially infringing products. Using either registered (or unregistered) IP, links found can then be reported for removal, either directly or via SnapDragon, using the marketplaces’ own removal procedures, whatever the language. We offer no legal services but have trusted legal companies working alongside us.
The benefit to the legal profession of our Swoop monitoring and service is three-fold:
- Firstly, in identifying infringing links, the client has improved awareness of the products/brands at stake: this in turn should enable a (more) proactive strategy in terms of the manufacturing and distribution supply chain and integrated communications.
- Secondly, using the client’s IP in defence – either directly or indirectly. Being creative with non-Chinese registered IP if necessary, but also being able to flag issues where, for example, another may have registered the trademark in a certain territory and proactive legal activity is subsequently required to regain control.
- Thirdly, proactive monitoring identifies not only infringing trademarks but also designs, registered and unregistered in territories where the client may not have ever considering a filing. Here, the business development potential is significant. If no trademarks are registered in China this is clearly a sensible starting point – even for the smaller business which, although online, has no grand plans for exporting to the Far East.
As professionals, we are all charged and trusted with giving our best advice. Brand protection isn’t always deemed a legal issue but with well executed tools, such as our Swoop software, it protects brands and reputations, adds value to legal services and can significantly and positively impact fee generation. Most importantly for all, online brand protection keeps the end-consumer safe. Identifying and removing counterfeit products from sale prevents their export, their import and their onward sale.
Swoop is a tool you can use with confidence and ease. Why not sign up for a free trial today or talk to the team on 0131 466 9249.
** BTHA estimate, 2018