ACID CEO Dids Macdonald discusses how to take action against online infringers:
Globalisation and the internet have been best friends to those who take the fast track to market by counterfeiting. The exponential rise in online IP theft as the internet has grown to literally billions of sites is a critical issue worldwide and provides challenges rarely experienced before, especially for micro and small businesses. The time, expense and crippling effect that blatant online infringement has on businesses is increasingly difficult to manage, and this seemingly insidious and anonymous means of IP theft, with few deterrents, makes enforcement difficult if you don't know where to turn.
To put a scale on the growing threats of online infringement, according to OECD statistics, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5 per cent of global imports, and many of the proceeds go to organised crime. In the UK, it is 4 per cent. This means there is even more of an issue nationally. Counterfeiters take advantage of our trust in trademarks and brand names to undermine economies and endanger lives.
Fake products crop up in everything from handbags and perfumes to machine parts and chemicals. Footwear is the most copied item. Counterfeiting also produces knockoffs that endanger lives - auto parts that fail, pharmaceuticals that make people sick, toys that harm children, baby formula that provides no nourishment and medical instruments that deliver false readings.
Taking action against online infringers by adopting a do it yourself policy can put a huge strain on micro businesses because it is cost and time debilitating, made even more difficult by the fact that online platforms differ in their processes for take down, and their response time is also inconsistent. In one ACID case study, it took more than a month to achieve take down of infringing designs, and this has a negative effect on resources, especially on businesses that are under resourced and unfamiliar with what do to. However, it is worth checking each platform for its guidance and help on IP issues. As a result of pressure from campaigning, online platforms are becoming increasingly accountable.
ACID's advice is to let the experts do it for you, and this is one of the main reasons for forming a partnership with Snapdragon IP to create an ACID Brand Enforcement Service (ABES), specially designed for cost- and time-effective management of online theft. This is endorsed by the UK Government and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
HOW CAN WE HELP?
ACCESS HELP FROM THE EXPERTS: ACID members can access Snapdragon's services through our website and at specially negotiated member discounts.
GET YOUR IP HOUSE IN ORDER: Removal of links is only possible if you can prove your ownership of the intellectual property that is being infringed. This may include using your registered trademarks, registered design rights or, in some cases, your unregistered copyright.
SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE: The team, via the ACID Brand Enforcement Service, strives to begin the process of reporting these links within 24 hours of your commissioning it to do so, so you can be assured of swift action.
ONGOING MONITORING ESSENTIAL: There is also an optional subscription choice for ongoing support at discounted rates. Monitoring of the internet for infringing items would be part of this package, together with take downs.
EVIDENCE? WHAT DO I NEED TO PREPARE? Simple. Create an email containing all the links. Explain within the email what the issue is and which product(s) are being infringed.
PROVE YOUR REGISTERED IP: Proof of the registered IP that is being infringed. This could be your registered trademark certificate or registered design certificate - or in the case of copyright, a URL link back to the original image on your website, whether a current or historic page.
Sadly, unregistered design rights cannot be used to support claims at this time.
To use the service you will need to provide the following;
Proof of your trading status/identity. For Limited Companies and Limited Liability Partnerships, this is your Certificate of Incorporation. For Sole Traders and Partnerships, this needs to be a digital copy of your passport.
A completed version of the downloadable Authorisation Request that will enable SnapDragon to do this work on your behalf. Download the file from the ACID website and reproduce the wording on to your company letterhead before returning it to Snapdragon IP.
Amazon has started a new service for rights owners with a registered trademark. That means you may be eligible to enrol your brand in the Amazon Brand Registry, which provides access to powerful tools including proprietary text and image search, predictive automation based on your reports of suspected intellectual property rights violations and increased authority over product listings with your brand name. ACID has not had any feedback on this service yet and would welcome any comments. Generally, search engines and online marketplaces are being held to account more, and there is increasingly much more Government pressure to make access to help with infringing material more accessible and easier to enforce. However, there is still a lot more to be done.