The Internet is continually evolving. Unfortunately, this is also true for the risks that threaten the reputation of a brand and therefore revenue. In the digital world you feel the business impact of trademark infringement immediately and in full force.
Research shows that one out of five online shoppers is lured to a page with counterfeit products when looking for reliable offers. What many providers do not know, however, is that the crooks with their scams even compromise those companies that do not sell their products over the Internet, which in turn suffer sales losses that way as well.
In plain language this means: Online brand protection actually has to concern all traders and businesses, no matter via which channels they distribute their goods. Hence, to protect a brand effectively, the person in charge should consider the following tips:
1. Avoid exposing weak spots
Brand pirates use different attack strategies. Their most common weapons include the feigning of sites, copying of apps, or redirecting of data traffic. A targeted brand protection strategy must therefore take into account all the gateways and act globally to stand the test in the fast-paced online world.
Tip: Include all channels in your online brand protection and remember to monitor social networks or apps that have newly entered the market. In today’s dynamic environment it is possible that they gain a dominant market position in a short time.
2. Try to track fraudsters all the time
Even pirates’ websites need to be financed. The scammers usually opt for unsuspecting customers who pay for advertising space on the illegal online sites.
Tip: It pays off to work with ad networks, marketplaces and payment service providers, as ads on faked websites can be identified and removed quickly that way. Besides, new technologies can help to scale the persecution measures and to perform them more efficiently by an automated procedure. Specific tools search the Internet in its deepest corners and collect, for example, information about the relationship between criminal websites. That way, networks with thousands of domain names can be identified and be completely disabled, rather than proceeding only against individual sites. This means accelerated research, better legal success rates and increased ROI for the brand protection investments.
3. A blessing in disguise: Learning from crooks
A targeted online monitoring has other advantages as well: Brand protection in times of "Big Data" can provide additional business intelligence advantages. From the knowledge of what drives customers to the offers of brand counterfeiters, you can answer questions about their customer loyalty.
Tip: Use data from brand protection monitoring to detect market gaps. Customers buy, for example, from brand counterfeiters, mainly because the original product is not available. Brands have to close such gaps in the market. The online findings are by all intends and purposes an occasion for new marketing campaigns, price structures or service and distribution strategies, to better respond to customer demand, retain existing customers and win new ones - rather than to accept loss in revenue.
4. New top-level domains - new chance and field of attacks at the same time
A top-level domain (TLD) is that portion of a domain name, which is to the right side of the dot. Until recently, there were only 22 TLDs, whereby .com is probably the best known worldwide. In June 2012, however, the organization ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which coordinates the assignment of names and addresses in the Internet, has published a list with 1,930 new top-level applications which include approximately 1,400 new top-level domains. The current expansion of the gTLD (generic TLD) opens brands, community groups or entrepreneurs, the possibility to operate their own top-level domains, such as .amazon, or .auto, and around 650 brands have indeed requested a TLD for their own name.
Tip: Companies should define in any case how they deal with the changed and more complex Internet landscape. It is advisable to consult with colleagues from the legal department to calculate risks and to develop a strategy which is on schedule and in line with the budget. However, it makes barely sense for a company to register each core brand term for each new ending. Given the variety and costs, the precautionary domain registration is no longer effective as a strategy. Instead, it is usually advisable to monitor this extended domain environment in relation to trademark infringement. In addition, it is useful to define a procedure for domains that violate the trademark rights and steal traffic in advance. Ideally, legal-, trademark- and risk management experts should work closely together.
5. The treasure chest of digital content
Software, movies, music, patents, customer lists or databases, all count to the most precious treasures of a company. Therefore, it is important to know potential threats to protect these intangible digital values properly.
Tip: Focus on search engines as a central element of your safety precautions. This probably helps to avoid redirecting clients to fake websites and bars pirated content.
In the digital world, the negative consequences of brand abuse are not only noticeable in sales, as even the brand image, trade relations, customer trust and efficiency of marketing activities are at stake. A strategy for online brand protection is therefore essential for all brands and online stores, because they are all threatened by the illegal activities of cyber criminals and brand pirates.
By Daniela La Marca