How to Protect Your Brand Online: Three Practical Steps

According to research, counterfeiting and piracy's global economic value could reach $2.3 trillion by 2022 and result in up to 5 million lost jobs worldwide. Pirates harm both brick-and-mortar manufacturers and internet companies as businesses face lost profits, reputation plummets, and customers get fake goods of low quality or lose their money entirely.

This is why it is crucial to fight counterfeiting, and today we will talk about practical steps every business can take towards securing their brand online.

Step #1: sort out the paperwork and prepare for the fight

To make brand protection a reality, you'll have to get some things done even before you'll start actively engaging in business activities. First, you'll need:

  • Double-check that your brand name is unique for the target market. If there are industries or markets where your competitors (or companies that work in the niche close to yours) use it or a similar brand, this is a huge problem.
  • Register trademarks and visual representation of a brand. These actions will make it easier to prove that you are an actual brand owner and your company was first to use it. You'll have to do it for all markets and industries you want to work in.
  • Design and implement documents that will protect your intellectual property from the inside too. Make sure every counterpart or employee signs NDAs and non-compete agreements to prevent information leakage.

Step #2: make the brand difficult to counterfeit

Fighting counterfeiting is a complex process. Despite the paperwork and legal precautions, you'll have to think through the ways of making it harder for pirates to copy your brand or cheat your customers fraudulently. Brands worldwide use different tactics to solve this task.

For example, apparel manufacturers add so-called easter eggs that pirates may be unaware of. When Nike worked on the Nike Air Jordan 4s release, the company added the TWENTYTWELVE caption to each pair. For a long time, these letters could be met only when dealing with original sneakers, which helped customers spot fakes. In turn, Disney fought counterfeiting in China by adding holographic stickers to their goods. Customers could later use these stickers to enter contests and giveaways.

Technology is another way to add additional security. There are blockchain-fueled product tracking and tracing platforms like the one launched by LVMH and its partners Microsoft and ConsenSys. Such tools allow convenient tracking of any goods with just the unique serial number from the production to the store's shelf. RFID beacons can also be used to verify the information about the manufacturer like Rochambeau and its partners EVRYTHNG and Avery Dennison did.

Stage #3: reactive fight

It is unlikely that you'll be able to protect yourself using the two steps above only. Chances are, there will be violations anyway, and you will have to react. To retain your profits, protect customers and the brand's reputation, you will need to take action. It is a great idea to ask your clients for help – like Disney did in China, and people were reporting stores selling goods with holographic stickers. This helped company a lot.

Besides this, it is essential to monitor social networks to control brand search terms and intellectual rights violations. For example, the request that looks like is the site name allows finding even deleted web pages.

It is relatively easy to find pages and accounts used by pirates, but it takes time and resources. For example, for Aviasales, the search engine for cheap flights, experts at Brandsecurity revealed more than 500 cases of illegal use of the brand online. Around 50% of violations took place on social websites.

After you've detected the counterfeit, you can stop it by following this algorithm:

  • Document violations. Even screenshots are great evidence of your intellectual property infringement. 
  • Collect data. Use Whois to find out who owns the malicious domain name, track the web page changes via, etc.
  • Prepare the cease and desist letters. Once you've documented violations, it is time to send complaints and demand websites, social networks, and platforms to take down the infringing content. Major social networks and marketplaces often provide businesses with brand protection tools. For, eg. here is how the App Store Content Dispute form looks like.

Final thoughts
Dealing with piracy is an unpleasant side of doing business. However, this does not mean that you cannot fight it. Creating a competent legal framework, introducing physical obstacles for counterfeiters, and constant monitoring of violations - this comprehensive approach will help identify and block more than 90% of cases of intellectual property infringement.