Rapid technology advancements have introduced new and exciting avenues for business growth. But they have also created endless new ways for unscrupulous sellers, competitors, brand enthusiasts, and even ‘robots’ to violate intellectual property rights.
IP Protection: The Problem
In the digital age, intellectual property rights are more vulnerable than ever as the constant changes, complexity and global reach of
the digital world make them easier to abuse and harder to protect.
Online abuse is often organized and sophisticated, led by digital professionals set out to exploit brands and mislead consumers. They do so by using a variety of methods that constantly change and evolve, just like the online world.
Cybersquatting, for example, involves registering domain names matching those of the abused brand, with the intention of diverting traffic from the legitimate brand to the abuser’s site. Brandjacking is the act of assuming the online identity of a brand with the intention of acquiring this brand’s equity.
Other methods include typosquatting, SEO manipulation, false association, search engine marketing abuse, traffic interception and more.
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IP Protection: What are intellectual rights?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines intellectual property as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce”.
Intellectual property rights have increasingly become valuable assets, often the most valuable assets a business has, and a significant factor in mergers and acquisitions. Protecting your intellectual property rights safeguards their value and eventually, your brand.
There are four types of intellectual property rights: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
Individuals and businesses can register patents. There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents are granted for inventions if the invention meets the requirements. Basic requirements include a patentable subject matter, a useful purpose, and an invention that is novel and non-obvious.
Brands can register their name, symbol, or logo as a trademark, preferably in all the locations where they manufacture and sell their products, offline or online. Online, brand names and trademarks can be registered with marketplaces, as well as with social media sites. Trademarks are also applied to domain name protection as they identify goods or services.
Copyright is a protected right that too many ignore, especially online. Copy, content, and images are all protected by copyright laws. It is well known that you should not just cut and paste content to your website or post somebody else’s photograph, and still it happens all the time, especially online.
Trade secrets refer to confidential information. They include formulas, processes, designs, instruments, patterns, and more. Trade secrets are not disclosed by definition, making them a right that is not registered.
Registered IP rights give the owner the exclusive right to use them, such as using a specific patent or displaying a logo on your products.
IP Protection: Online intellectual property abuse
Online abuse refers to a third party exploiting your intellectual property. This malicious activity is often organized and sophisticated, led by digital professionals set out to exploit brands and mislead consumers. Even when detected, such savvy IP abusers are usually not easy to identify in order to stop the infringement.
Whether their goal is to divert traffic to competitors, exploit or free-ride on your brand’s marketing efforts and reputation, or steal sales through counterfeit or gray market goods, they all affect your brand’s value and revenue. They do so by using a variety of venues and methods that constantly change and evolve, just like the online world.
Today, internet users can find your brand through direct navigation. Yet, most find your product or service through a hyperlink (from organic or paid search results), other sites, email, or social media. The number of online channels that can be used for online IP violations is continuously growing: search engines, eCommerce platforms (marketplaces, B2B exchanges, auction sites), social networks, blogs, emails, and more.
Online infringements are almost endless. Some of the most common forms include:
- Sale of counterfeit goods
- Use of identical or misleading trademarks across online channels, such as in hashtags and product listings
- Piracy, also called copyright infringement
- Patent infringement (utility and/or design)
- Imitation of a brand’s website or social media page
The many online abuse methods used by skilled scammers are evolving as technology advances. Here are some common examples:
- Traffic diversion refers to tactics used to steal traffic to illegitimate sites or competitor websites. Some of the techniques used to achieve diversion, like cybersquatting, are described below.
- Cybersquatting involves registering domain names matching those of the abused brand, with the intention of diverting traffic from the legitimate brand to the abuser’s site.
- Typosquatting is also known as URL hijacking and it is a form of cybersquatting. This practice targets users who mistype a website address into their web browser. When this happens, users may be led to a malicious website.
- Brandjacking is the act of assuming the online identity of a brand with the intention of acquiring this brand’s equity.
- SEO manipulation refers to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the legitimate tactic of building web pages that get more traffic while improving the quality of that traffic, such as through optimized content. SEO manipulation affects ranking through different tactics, such as keyword spamming, creating artificial link networks, and generating low-quality web pages.
- Pay-per-Click (PPC) abuse is an online abuse scheme in which a fraudster creates a website to host paid search ads in order to generate revenue when users click on the ads, often by the unauthorized use of a brand name.
Every brand has the ability to find online infringements, such as a counterfeit product listing on Amazon, a fake social media page, or a fake website that looks and feels like your original one. Although time consuming, it is possible to detect some of the violations.
However, the global reach, numerous venues, and scale make it unfeasible to devise a comprehensive solution without the help of technology.
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IP Protection: The Need for a Comprehensive Solution
Whether your intellectual property includes patents, trademarks, designs, logos, copyrights or URLs, it is essential to protect your rights.
Failing to do so affects more than just your online sales, it also devaluates the hard-earned reputation of your brand and damages consumers’ trust in your products.
A solution is also essential for the selling of grey market goods, authentic goods sold through unauthorized channels.
Combating online IP violations and preventing further abuse starts with a clear insight into your brand’s online abuse situation. Threat assessment involves the process of understanding the severity of the threat, especially how much it costs your brand, and setting priorities.
Online brand and intellectual property protection require expert skills and knowledge, and advanced technology.
IP Protection: The Wiser Solution
We believe in being proactive. An effective online IP protection strategy is a strategy tailored for the brand owner’s objectives and needs, based on the current business and technological environment.
It involves knowledge and expertise regarding online infringements, and research into how they affect the specific brand. The next step is setting a monitoring strategy based on technology.
Human expertise, actionable data and advanced technology come together to establish an IP protection strategy for our clients. With a strategy in place, we set a process that includes search, analysis, and enforcement.
Wiser Market uses state-of-the-art technology to scan the internet and detect IP infringements on marketplaces, websites, social media and other digital channels. Our monitoring system can scan and analyze vast amounts of data, across multiple channels, providing rapid global coverage.
After detecting and identifying potential IP infringements, results are further examined by our in-house team of experts; the final list of targets is sent for your approval before moving on to enforcing your IP rights.
Our End-to-End service, from detection to elimination of IP infringing products, results in over 90% success rate.
Wiser Market offers a cost-effective service for intellectual property protection from online offenders, and helps you regain control over your online sales and brand reputation.
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