Fighting online brand infringements

It’s not news that the buying and selling of counterfeit goods online is big business. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported in 2016 that fake goods made up around 5% of all global trade equating to a total value of $461bn. Counterfeiters attracted almost half the visits to the their websites compared to the visits to legitimate brand sites, and multinational manufacturers lose roughly 10% of their revenue to these traders.

In addition to losing revenue in lost sales, there are product safety issues around consumers buying fake goods, particularly pharmaceuticals and electronics; the high cost of legitimate brand warranties and reputational damage.

Some of the techniques counterfeiters use include domain cybersquatting and placing adverts on search engines, social media or spam mail which link to bogus sites. A study from The Washington Post identified 20,892 fake Instagram accounts selling counterfeit goods and around 14% of searches on a branded item lead users to sites selling fake goods.

The counterfeit products offered for sale online consist mainly of pharmaceuticals, followed by watches and electronics, with clothing and associated accessories having the fewest sale listings. The primary marketplaces for these goods, Silk Road and AlphaBay have been shut down by the authorities, but one can be fairly certain that other large-scale illegal trading sites will pop up to replace them in future.

Brand owners can take some basic precautions against infringements, including educating customers, ensuring their trade-marks are registered globally, especially in China which produces a large proportion of counterfeit goods, and conduct regular monitoring of the internet for any black or grey market trading. Brand monitoring can also help to prevent accidently infringing others’ intellectual property rights.

Depending on the scale of the problem, employing a service to monitor assets online and police any infringements is highly recommended. The most effective service will use creative searches on both the accessible web and the anonymous and unindexed networks, popularly known as the `dark net’ or `deep web’.

Regency IT Consulting can provide your business with guidance on online brand monitoring, intelligence and investigation. If you are interested in more information about our services, then give us a call on 01242 225699 or send us an e-mail (enquiries@regencyitc.co.uk) to find out how we can help you.