Brand Protection Explained: 5 Key Ways to Prevent Brand Infringement
The era of e-commerce seems to have marked an explosive growth of counterfeiting activity. Faked goods and plagiarized ideas pose serious threats to a brand’s reputation, revenues, and customer loyalty. Luckily, just as today’s counterfeiters are equipped with all sorts of tools and tactics for brand abuse, companies have a wide selection of brand protection software and services at their disposal. This article takes a closer look at the basic principles of protecting a brand and the strategies that can be used to prevent brand infringement.
What is brand protection?
In a nutshell, brand protection is any steps a company takes to protect key components of the brand value — intelligence, operations, strategy, etc. — from various forms of abuse. Such steps are essential to protect brand reputation and maintain customer loyalty. The risks of brand infringement are especially high online as there is a wide range of cyber tools and tactics available to counterfeiters. The failure to ensure appropriate safeguard against such risks can lead to a number of unfavorable outcomes including but not limited to
- serious financial losses;
- reduced market share;
- damaged reputation;
- disrupted projects and plans.
Before discussing tools and strategies to be used to prevent brand abuse, it is, above all else, necessary to take a closer look at the common types of brand infringement to develop a better idea of the risks, for which one must be prepared.
Common types of brand infringement
One central type of infringement, from which a brand needs to be protected, is counterfeiting where malicious actors unofficially imitate the company’s service or goods and distribute these fake products to customers. To deceive the latter, counterfeiters use the authentic brand’s logo and trademark. Research shows that the growth of e-commerce is accompanied by a sharp increase in the scope and scale of counterfeiting with brand protection companies registering more than 9 million infringed items per week. Counterfeiting is a serious threat to a business’s reputation for it is fairly challenging to return a client dissatisfied with the quality of purchased products.
Other common types of brand infringement include
- Copyright infringement: The use of any item (e.g., video, image, photo, etc.) protected by copyright without due permission from its owner. This may include unauthorized copying or distribution of copyrighted items.
- Trademark infringement: As follows from its name, this type of infringement implies unauthorized use of a company’s trademark. This can be the unpermitted use of a brand’s logo, symbol, pattern, or other elements intended to distinguish its goods in the market.
- Patent infringement: Any newly invented product is granted a patent that acts as a safeguard against its being copied by the brand’s competitors or malicious actors. Producing and distributing products in violation of the exclusive right guaranteed by the patent is called patent infringement.
- Design infringement: Similarly to patent infringement, design theft means unauthorized use of a brand’s patented elements of design. According to the research carried out by the Intellectual Property Office, over 90% of designers in the UK have encountered design infringement at least once in their careers.
Brand infringement tactics
When it comes to online brand protection, it is useful for companies to be aware of the two common tactics, to which counterfeiters commonly turn:
|What is it?||Websites that imitate the authentic brand’s website to distribute fake products and services. Such websites can have the same name as the official website but may be registered in a different country. Or, the name of a copycat website might contain a smartly crafted typo, which is hard to spot, such as Twitter instead of Twitter.||Malicious actors create a fake account of a brand in social media, which they further use to direct clients to fake websites, where they distribute fake goods as well as collect clients’ personal data.|
|What do I do?||Using web scrapers can be helpful as it is highly challenging to manually find all copycat websites.||All fake accounts should be immediately reported to moderators. Implementing DMARC in the brand’s email infrastructure as well as other protection tools might likewise help to reduce the risks of impersonation.|
How brand protection companies prevent brand infringement
One way to ensure a brand is consistently protected is to outsource the task to brand protection companies. Here are a few ways of how they can help:
- Detect: Companies specializing in cybersecurity help to safeguard your business against infringement by detecting signs of brand abuse online. Such companies normally use brand protection software that allows finding copycat websites, social media impersonation, design theft, and other types of brand infringement.
- Validate: Apart from detecting all episodes of infringement, it is also critical to verify each episode, that is, to check the related information and ensure it can be, indeed, qualified as brand abuse. Brand protection companies complete this task and help to ensure legit companies are not penalized.
- Enforce: Once all infringements are detected and verified, an outsourced company will help to remove unauthorized brand activity by getting fake social media accounts banned or taking down copycat websites.
- Report: The final stage of effective online protection is analytics. A good cybersecurity company will provide your business will actionable and relevant data that will guide your cybersecurity strategy and help to prevent future episodes of brand infringement.
Key brand protection strategies
Besides outsourcing, security can likewise be enhanced with the help of a comprehensive brand protection strategy. Here are a few building blocks, from which such a strategy can be constructed.
Intellectual property registration
First and foremost, it is reasonable to ensure your brand’s intellectual property is officially registered. Otherwise, it will be impossible to stop brand infringement even if you manage to detect it. Intellectual property is normally protected through copyright, trademark, and patent. One more type of intellectual property is the so-called “trade secrets”: this relates to confidential information that has commercial value and is only available to a limited group of people.
Monitoring and fighting copycat websites
The best protecting brand strategy when it comes to copycat websites is a preventative one. Thus, it is a good idea to register a variety of domain variations for your brand website taking into account the following aspects:
- spelling differences, including intended typing errors;
- punctuation differences;
- extension differences.
While the registration of multiple domain variations is a cheap and effective strategy, it is not a panacea. If a brand has detected a copycat website, the best thing to do is to send a cease and desist letter first to the contact found on the web page and then to the CMS, with which the site works (e.g., Google). If none of this works, the same letter must be sent to the domain host.
Smart social media management
Establishing a strong and stable presence in social media is a good way to ensure your customers will tell the authentic website or social media account from a fake one. The brand’s account must include brand abuse reporting tools as well as educate clients on how to recognize a fake product. In addition to this, it might be useful to educate clients on the harm of brand abuse to persuade them to stay away from counterfeiters. Just as in the case of fake websites, fake social media accounts must be reported and, in the long run, banned.
How does a proxy server contribute to a stronger defense?
One more online brand protection method, which is easy to use and implement, is cyber proxy use. Without going into detail, proxies contribute to a brand’s cybersecurity by adding another layer between the brand and the Internet. Some compelling reasons to consider using proxies as a part of the brand protection strategy are as follows:
- Effective risk monitoring: In most cases, monitoring counterfeiting activity requires web scraping and proxies are a perfect fit for this task. When properly managed, a proxy pool allows scraping the web at large scales avoiding an IP ban and overcoming regional restrictions. The latter might be especially relevant to those situations where a copycat website is registered in a location, access to which is blocked in the brand’s home country.
- Anonymity: One more threat brands commonly encounter is corporate espionage. The use of proxies helps to protect the business’s sensitive data and secrets by masking its IP. Under this scenario, malicious actors have few chances of tracing the brand’s web traffic.
- Control over internal Internet usage: Effective online brand protection requires a prompt and adequate response to both external and internal threats. By using a proxy network, businesses empower network administrators to monitor internal traffic and troubleshoot minor issues before they turn into serious problems.
- Reduced bandwidth and load balancing: Although none of this relates directly to a brand’s cybersecurity, both bandwidth and load are critical to a brand’s performance. Thus, one more reason to use proxies is that they help to save bandwidth and balance traffic more effectively. In this manner, proxies do not only protect brand operations but likewise help to optimize them, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. As a rule, a business would stick with either residential or datacenter proxies for additional security and optimization.
Final considerations for choosing reliable brand protection tools
Whatever brand protection strategy one chooses, the truth is that it is hardly possible to realize it manually without specialized technology. Fortunately, there are a plethora of brand protection software solutions in the market today. The optimal solution is the one that brings together online protection and web scraping. Depending on the company’s size and resources available, different approaches to using protection technologies might be considered. Thus, for instance, a large company with an already formed business intelligence team that fights counterfeit can choose self-service brand protection software for it has professionals who will be able to implement it. In contrast to this, a smaller company without any experience in brand infringement fighting might find it more suitable to opt for fully managed software. Under both scenarios, it is preferable that the selected software includes the following elements:
- keyword monitoring to track brand-related words and phrases;
- Optical Character Recognition to track the text embedded inside images;
- image matching to track products that look the same as those the brand sells;
- logo detection to detect logos that have been purposefully distorted;
- AI and machine learning to ensure the software studies the methods used by counterfeiters and adapts accordingly;
- network analysis to discover entire counterfeiting infrastructures.
In effect, all businesses need it. The reason for this is that every company operates in a competitive environment meaning that there are always risks of plagiarism and counterfeiting. Brand protection is, thus, a measure a business is forced to take to remain competitive, protect its reputation as well as ensure client data security.
Effective brand protection is associated with a wide range of benefits. Some examples include increased revenues, minimized reputational risks, higher legal efficiency, improved customer safety, and advanced business intelligence. To enjoy all these benefits, a company needs to select optimal brand protection tools and use appropriate software.
As a rule, companies use residential or datacenter proxies. In the meantime, a proxy is not a solution but an instrument and so the most suitable type of proxy is the one that best fits the unique goals of your company’s brand protection strategy. Find out more about proxies for different use cases here.
While VPN can be used as a helpful online security tool, it should not be used as a replacement for your brand protection strategy as such. VPN helps to secure data by encrypting connections between devices. In this manner, one can create a secure internal network for communication using VPN.
As a rule, effective and trusted software providers have several paid plans to choose from. Some of them likewise offer free trials so that a brand can use their software for free for a limited period.