The sale of counterfeits has been a problem for many years. The rise in e-commerce channels: marketplaces, social commerce, live streaming, B2B exchanges – has made counterfeits available globally and anonymously.
Yet, there are ways to combat the sales of counterfeit goods online.
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Understanding online counterfeiting
The problem of online counterfeiting is growing. Counterfeit goods are on the rise where production capacity increases, especially in China. The supply is met with demand on a global scale.
Illicit sellers can buy fake goods from the manufacturer or go on wholesale sites to purchase the goods. They then sell them online directly to consumers (on e-commerce sites, social media, and other digital channels) or on auction sites.
It is easy to set up stores or create listings on various platforms. Then, illegitimate sellers use marketing tools and best practices for online sales just like legitimate sellers, through paid search ads, SEO (search engine optimization), and more. They can even bid up paid search advertising and drive costs up for brand owners.
The problem of counterfeits
Fake products hurt your brand in many ways, some more obvious than others. Lost revenue is just one of them. Subpar quality products (as fakes often are) can have real, serious consequences for both consumers and brands.
Unregulated products can not only cause damage but compromise human health. Counterfeits are everywhere: toys, food products, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, cosmetics, auto parts, and the list goes on. Consider fake makeup and cosmetics.
They may look like the real deal, but when you apply them to your face, they can cause infections and rashes. Another example involves counterfeit automotive parts, such as fake airbags, that pose a threat to the safety of passengers.
These consequences result in a negative impact on brands. Since many consumers are unaware that the product they bought online is a fake one, when it does not work as it should or does not meet their expectations, they connect your brand with the lower quality.
The poor experience results in the brand dealing with more customer service and warranty issues. Even when consumers are aware that they had bought a fake, often the availability of fakes erodes brand reputation. Inevitably, counterfeits lead to loss of customer trust and loyalty.
Free-riding on your R&D or product development, marketing efforts, and reputation, counterfeiters introduce not only illegal but unfair competition. Offering similar- or identical-looking items for a fraction of the original price eventually hurts sales and may drive prices down.
How to fight counterfeiters online
There is no single way to eliminate counterfeits completely, but there are ways to combat them successfully.
1. Get the full picture of the counterfeiting problem
Counterfeiters operate across many online channels. Brands must review and analyze every sales and distribution channel. Social media, for example, increasingly enables in-app shopping and should be examined closely to understand the scope of the counterfeiting problem.
Monitoring software can help detect where counterfeits of your brand are present online.
2. Monitor marketing and promotion efforts
Brands must also be on the lookout for marketing and promotion efforts. In the online world, illicit sellers can use the same promotion practices as legitimate sellers. Savvy counterfeiters use effective practices: paid search advertising, links on social media, SEO and more.
They also attract buyers away from legitimate sellers to their illegal operations through false advertising, black hat SEO tactics and spam.
3. Prepare your intellectual property
Registered IP rights, such as trademarks, copyrights, and patents, are a prerequisite to enforcement. For example, registration is crucial for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizures of counterfeits.
It is also a necessary tool for brands who wish to approach marketplaces and make takedown requests. So, if you ask how to protect a brand, we suggest that you start by registering the brand’s name and logo as a trademark.
In case some of the brand’s products have unique, identifiable names, consider registering each one of those names as a separate trademark as well.
Trademarks are territorial. Therefore, it is crucial to register a trademark in every jurisdiction in which your brand manufactures, markets, or sells abroad.
Brands also need protection in countries where counterfeit goods are often produced, particularly China. Registering a trademark as early as possible is the best way to protect your intellectual property in China.
China has a first-to-file trademark system. In this system, intellectual property rights go to the first party who registers the trademark, a process that requires no proof of use. Therefore, if you do not want somebody else to register your name or logo, you should do it yourself.
4. Be proactive
When brands do not fight back, counterfeiters have it better. A brand that chooses not to act to stop counterfeiters gives them even more reason to continue violating its intellectual property and profiting of it.
When you fight to remove counterfeit goods from online channels, such as Amazon or AliExpress, you make it more challenging for counterfeiters to violate your rights. Although they are unlikely to stop their illicit activity, they often choose other targets.
5. Adopt an effective strategy
Look at the counterfeiting issue holistically to devise the best protection strategy for your needs.
For effective results, prioritize your enforcement efforts according to threats and efficiency. Online and offline. Online, start with the biggest counterfeiters first in the most trafficked channels with best sales.
As for offline efforts: investigations, evidence collection and raids are usually both costly and time-consuming, and should be applied when effective.
Wiser Market – Online brand protection like no other
The online ecosystem calls for unique solutions.
Monitoring and reporting counterfeits and other IP infringements lie mainly with the authentic brands. It is a heavy burden, especially given the number of online channels and the number of listings and sellers.
After a takedown, infringers can simply open a new account, listing, or store. Continuous monitoring and action are therefore critical.
Wiser Market anti-counterfeiting agency helps clients in their fight against online sales of counterfeits. We use innovating technology and extensive know-how to fight counterfeiters and protect your brand, your partners, and consumers across online marketplaces, eCommerce platforms, and social networks.
Working globally, we have an international team and collaborations to provide expertise and overcome language barriers, especially Chinese.
Wiser Market’s successful online brand protection strategy defends your brand’s intellectual property, revenue, and reputation, resulting in an over 90% success rate.
With Wiser Market, your brand will have a 360° protection suit, allowing you to grow your business.
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WiserTip: Use up-to-date information to make informed decisions with the help of an online brand protection agency.