Counterfeiting is at an all-time high with the internet as a major global retail hub. The problem with counterfeit goods is that they are usually inferior quality and dilute the brand and its reputation with the consumer as a source of quality products and services. The damage to the brand owner is loss of consumer confidence and lost sales opportunities.
Counterfeiters have mastered their craft with posting photos of the real products on sale sites and hiding their identity. They move their products from one sales outlet to another, making it difficult to stop them before they disappear again. Perseverance is necessary, however, to retain trademark rights and obtain a reputation for enforcement that an detour future would-be infringers. When these counterfeiters can move on to easier pickings, they often will. Failure to police your trademark is grounds for cancellation by the U.S. Trademark office so this duty cannot be ignored.
Steps you can take to identify potential counterfeiters include:
- Routinely monitor domain names, social media sites, and websites using your product name and trademarks, including similar spellings and misspellings.
- Set a Google alert for internet mentions of your brand names and marks.
- Use a trademark watch service to monitor applications for marks using your brand names and marks, including close misspellings and derivative names using combinations of dominant portions of key terms.
- File your marks with US Customs and Border Control.
- Monitor combinations of words with your brand or product name such as “cheap,” “discount,” “free,” and “wholesale.”
- Monitor sites like “Etsy,” “E-bay,” and other retail sites that allow vendors to sell products.
- Ask host sites to delist counterfeiting websites and products
- Actively participate in anti-counterfeiting trade organizations to join forces with other similarly situated businesses.
- Educate your customers about how to identify genuine goods – what to look for as evidence.
- Educate your employees and distributors about what to do when they encounter counterfeits.
These steps will take a commitment, but if you persevere, you will see results and protect the value of your brand equity.