Defending Your Brand Against Online Trademark Infringement

Businesses today are facing a serious threat that can result in irreparable damage to brand reputation, massive financial losses, and customers who feel angry and betrayed: Online trademark infringement. 

The good news is that proactive monitoring can help you manage and take down trademark infringement in a way that prevents or at least minimizes damage to your brand. Here’s what you need to know about battling online trademark infringement, and the importance of actively seeking out violations so you can safeguard your company’s reputation, finances, and brand loyalty.

Trademark Infringement: What Brands Need To Know

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), trademark infringement occurs when a cybercriminal uses a trademark or logo belonging to a company in order to create the illusion that they are selling services or goods on behalf of that business.

Trademark infringement is “likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services,” USPTO notes.

Deceived consumers may purchase a counterfeit item, believing it is an authentic product. This results in lower sales for the “real company” or brand. It’s unfair, but consumers who receive a fraudulent product that’s faulty or low quality may also blame the authentic brand and develop a negative association with the real company. 

With 45% of brands naming customer confusion against your brand as the biggest threat caused by trademark infringement, this is a very real issue facing brands every day. There are various legal remedies available to infringed companies, depending upon the type of violation.

Website trademark infringement (WTI) and domain infringement (DI) are both examples of online trademark infringement. WTI occurs when a cybercriminal uses a trademark without permission, while DI involves registering or using a domain name similar to a well-known brand without permission. Domain infringement can include cybersquatting, typosquatting, and IDNs. Both WTI and DI can also involve content infringement.

How To Assess Your Threat Level

Taking stock of the trademark infringement risks to your brand is a critical step for building an effective strategy to safeguard your business. For a powerful, effective brand protection program that safeguards your company from financial and reputational damage, constantly monitoring the use of your trademark online should be a fundamental element of your strategy.

When identifying infringements, assess the threat level based on the popularity of the infringing party. There’s a big difference between a small site hawking goods with your company’s logo on the bottom of the page and a large-scale production that sees fraudulent products bearing your brand name being produced on an industrial level and thousands of units being sold on a regular basis. Both instances need to be shut down, but very different methods are required to ensure an effective takedown.

After figuring out the scale of the online trademark infringement affecting your company, it’s time to analyze potential losses, whether you measure that in lost sales or a reduction in customer trust. Estimate how many sales of fraudulent products have occurred and how many of your clients may have inadvertently purchased from the scam site, rather than your brand’s legitimate channels.

But above all, taking proactive steps to ensure you can detect infringement as soon as it occurs is an extremely important measure. It’s far easier to take preventative action or launch swift remediation for a violation than to struggle with damage control after a catastrophe happens.

Louis Vuitton v. My Other Bag: Online trademark Infringement In Action

In a legal battle between Louis Vuitton and “My Other Bag”, the question of whether a parody tote bag can infringe on a luxury brand's trademark was raised. My Other Bag, a small California-based company, produced tote bags with cartoon images of luxury handbags on one side and the phrase “My Other Bag…” on the other. The company claimed that its bags were intended to be humorous and that the use of Louis Vuitton’s design was a parody.

However, Louis Vuitton disagreed and filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against My Other Bag, alleging that the tote bags could cause consumer confusion and dilute the company's trademark. After a four-year legal battle, the case was finally settled in favor of My Other Bag in 2016.

The case raised questions about the limits of parody and the protection of a brand’s trademark. While some argue that parody should be protected under the First Amendment, others argue that it can be harmful to a brand’s reputation and dilute the value of its trademark. As this case shows, the line between parody and infringement can be blurry and depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

Best Practices For Online Trademark Infringement Monitoring

Successful proactive monitoring demands seamless collaboration and effective communication between legal and cybersecurity teams to prevent brand infringement and eliminate threats.

Both teams play an active role in protecting the brand. The legal team is responsible for trademarking and patenting all intellectual property, designs, and new product developments in accordance with trademark law. They also pursue legal action against cybercriminals. The cybersecurity team maintains the company's domain portfolio and protects against evolving cyber threats such as domain squatting and typo squatting while also securing crucial brand assets and intellectual property.

It is therefore crucial for the Chief Legal Officer (CLO) and CISO to align their efforts.

To build an effective program for battling online trademark infringement, you’ll need to set up a monitoring program that keeps you informed of potential violations, 24/7. In order to do that, you’ll need to select the right monitoring tools and establish a response plan for potential trademark infringement. Instead of doing all that independently, you can choose to partner with a company that already has these procedures in place and years of experience in combating trademark infringement. 

BrandShield’s team of seasoned professionals and Intellectual Property lawyers, backed by our in-house, proprietary technology, provide you with proactive monitoring for potential trademark infringement. We understand that trademark infringement monitoring is a critical component of any brand protection strategy, and we know exactly how to manage this threat powerfully and effectively.

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