An online brand protection strategy needs to protect the brand from Internet counterfeiting, fraud, piracy and cybersquatting, which can lead to a loss of revenue, brand reputation and consumer trust
The internet is changing the way we do business in India. Faster internet connectivity considered a luxury some years ago is spreading fast. More and more users are connected over 3G and 4G and this is set to overhaul the country’s digital economy. Indian e-retailer sites are doing exceptional well due to the growth of users buying products online. And the mobile and internet spaces will continue to grow and that the internet will be accessible to more and more Indians. Companies have realized the potential of selling products online and with multiple brands in every segment competing for “Share of Mind” in the battle for overall market share.
In the digital space, brands face new risks due to the anonymous nature of the web and its exponential growth worldwide. An online brand protection strategy needs to address protecting its brand from Internet counterfeiting, fraud, piracy and cybersquatting which can lead to loss of revenue, brand reputation and consumer trust that occur when someone else exploits a brand for their own gain.of Risks
Let’s explore some of the ways in which a brand is targeted online.
Brand Piracy & Internet counterfeiting: - Counterfeiting is growing via new distribution channels offered by the Internet. The cost of digital piracy is $75 billion annually to the global economy Counterfeiters are exploiting services provided by e-commerce platforms to try to distribute counterfeit products. By doing this, the image of these platforms are at risk as well as reducing consumer confidence in online commerce as well as loss in sales for the brand. Some e-retailer sites like eBay already have a policy which state that items that bear a company's official brand name or logo can be listed as long as the products were lawfully made by, for, or with the consent of that company and that they don't allow replicas, counterfeit items, or unauthorized copies to be listed which may be an indication that there are counterfeit products that have got listed in the past on such portals. Recently Alibaba took down 90 million fake products ahead of its IPO. Alibaba, which raised a record $25 billion in an initial public offering in September, said it spent $160.7 million from the beginning of 2013 to block counterfeit products and boost consumer protection.
Fraud: Frauds typically in the form of phishing sites are a threat to a brand. Every year brands are targeted by cyber criminals who launch targeted phishing attacks to gain information or personal details from customers. When customers fall victim to an attack on your brand, consumer perception is that it’s all your fault. Once your brand is targeted, customers are less likely to do business with you in the future.
Negative Feedback: Poor online reputation can damage your company’s sales. When customers search for a company’s name online and if most of the results in the top 10 search results are negative it can have a direct impact on the revenues of the company even if the company is not present in the internet space.
Cybersquatting: As defined by wikipedia, cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.
Cybersquatting is not new, back in 2000, the BBC won back the rights to the URL bbcnews.com after it was registered by a US cybersquatter who registered its trademark on the internet. Since then there are numerous cases of cybersquatting.
In 2008, Verizon Won a $33 Million lawsuit over domain names which included myverizonwireless.com, iphoneverizonplans.com and verizon-cellular.com. Verizon sued OnlineNic of San Francisco, accusing the company of trademark infringement and illegal “cybersquatting,” or registering addresses intentionally to confuse Web users. Such knockoff names often take users to pages that advertise competing products, Verizon said.
India is not uncommon to these type of threats. For e.g. In 2010 Daniyal Waseem of Quetta in Pakistan was using the domain name 'rediffpk.com'. To this, Rediff had contended that the disputed Internet site was identical in part and confusingly similar as a whole to the 'Rediff' trademark, for which it has rights.
Tata Sons, the holding company of India’s biggest industrial conglomerate, the Tata Group, won a case to evict a cyber-squatter from 10 contested internet domain names incorporating the well-known trademark TATA.
What you can do
As regards to our legal system, there is no provision in the current Information Technology Act in India to punish cyber-squatters, or seek legal compensation under the IT Act and most past cases shows a reactive approach which may include sending cease-and-desist letters to the cyber, bringing a lawsuit in state or federal court, etc. Some other things you can do
Domain name as a trade mark - Register your domain name as a trade mark. Having a registered trade mark could assist in the event of a dispute over rights in a domain name. Consider registering common misspellings of your domain name to prevent typosquatters.
Monitor and Act Check on a regular basis if any sites have been registered similar to your brand name there are services which can monitor and report such registrations to you on a daily basis.
Based on whether the domain name registered is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark and /or is being used in bad faith, a Cease and Desist letter can be the first step to prompt them to transfer it avoid further legal action.
Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) is a process established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the resolution of disputes regarding the registration of internet domain names. The most widely used is Uniform Dispute for Domain Names Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) which allows complaints to be filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (“WIPO”) and other national bodies.
When a registrant chooses a domain name, the registrant must "represent and warrant", among other things, that registering the name "will not infringe upon or otherwise violate the rights of any third party", and agree to participate in an arbitration-like proceeding should any third party assert such a claim.
The goal of the UDRP is to create a streamlined process for resolving such disputes. It was envisioned that this process would be quicker and less expensive than a standard legal challenge.
Companies nowadays are investing in software or use companies specialized in this service that can help review online data sources to continuously monitor Internet channels scan - gtlds, social media sites and various marketplace to identify various risks to the brand and proactively protect the brand. Typically the team scans the internet using a tool with regards to the brand name or products or service lines of the company daily and an analyst usually reviews these reports to identify any false positives. These reports identify brand protection issues on e‐commerce platforms and social‐media sites, and issues on boycott sites having negative comments. The tool identifies gTLD domains with names featuring ‘your brand’, Of these gTLD domains, many may be owned by third parties where the team engages in proactively taking appropriate action. The analyst would be responsible for reaching out and bringing down any unauthorized domains. Of the brand specific domains which are registered by the company, they may shows errors in displaying content which can be highlighted to the relevant web maintenance teams for correction.
A range of ‘unofficial’ brand specific profile pages may exist on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter which may be boycott pages featuring your brand and cause negative publicity which can be highlighted to the brand team to take necessary action. This will help identify issues that users are perceiving in the market place as well and address the same.
If your company sells products, counterfeit product listings may exist on B2B and B2C marketplace sites which will be identified by analyzing subtle differences between the counterfeit and the original. All these efforts are bound to reap rewards.
Remember it costs millions to build global brands but it is also equally important to maintaining a positive brand reputation which otherwise can severely undermine marketing investments while putting brand reputation, customer trust and revenues at risk. By clearly demonstrating an active commitment to proactive brand defense, brand owners can also measurably reduce future brand attacks.
About the Author
Pradeep Keith Fernandez is a seasoned Security and Privacy Professional with a rich experience of over 15+ years of experience in various geographies (US, Australia, Middle East, India) and Industries like IT Consulting, Internet and telecom Service Providers and software development firms including a fortune 500 client.
He is currently working with IDEA Cellular as Vertical Head IT Security Engineering & New Initiatives. He has delivered a number of business improvement projects resulting in improved customer service, IT security, business time and cost savings. He has strong experience on security and privacy laws, regulations and industry standards such as ISO 27001(MC for IDEA Cellular), PCI DSS, NIST, TRAI, Indian IT ACT 2000