Question: We saw our product for sale online. We did not authorize this. How can we stop it?
The power of the Internet to organize individuals and provide them with increased market share for their products and ideas has had some downsides for intellectual property (“IP”) owners. Nowhere are these downsides more obvious than online auction websites and e-commerce sites on which user generated designs make up the product base. IP owners cannot ignore these sites because they play an important role in giving birth to new infringements and providing an anonymous dumping ground for illegal products. Continental Enterprises (“Continental”) has developed a comprehensive brand protection strategy that effectively and efficiently addresses such sites through routine monitoring and taking immediate action against infringements.
The popularity of online auction sites is unquestionable. From an IP protection standpoint, these sites merit attention for four major reasons.
- They are dumping grounds for unlicensed and counterfeit goods. Reducing the availability of counterfeit products requires shutting down online auctions for those products.
- They provide a trend-spotting function by acting as a microcosm of the marketplace as a whole. If you want to know how infringers are abusing your IP and to what extent, online auction sites provide insight into those issues.
- They are more than just an “online yard sale.” Sophisticated online businesses that carry substantial inventories and generate significant income are now as common on these sites as the casual sellers. Identifying and taking action against these businesses can have a real impact on the counterfeit market.
- They can reveal the true source of infringements. Casual sellers on these sites are often conduits to larger, more organized sources of counterfeit products. Taking action against these sellers can provide valuable leads into larger counterfeiting networks.
To address IP problems associated with online auctions and user-generated designs, Continental has established monitoring programs that significantly reduce levels of infringement and counterfeiting. When available, we work with preexisting policing methods in order to have the infringing sales shut down. In situations where the sites do not have policing procedures, or their procedures are inadequate, we communicate directly with site management to remove infringing content. When appropriate, we conduct individual investigations into infringers on these sites and use more aggressive enforcement tactics to remedy the issues. By monitoring these sites and regularly taking action against violations, we have been extraordinarily successful in eliminating infringements from the marketplace.
Someone is marketing a product that looks almost exactly like ours. What can we do about it?
Question: Someone is marketing a product that looks almost exactly like ours. What can we do about it?
While brand saturation is a common goal of many intellectual property (“IP”) owners, lax enforcement can quickly lead to rampant and uncontrollable misuse of a trademark. Continental Enterprises (“Continental”) can and has reversed this trend, recovering intellectual property thought to be lost to the public domain. Our innovative approach has converted profitless sales of non-licensed products into income-producing assets.
Our approach seems somewhat counterintuitive in that we focus on distribution chains instead of large manufacturers. Stopping retail sales of unlicensed goods eliminates the ability of manufacturers to distribute their products. Thus, when negotiations with manufacturers take place, the demand for their unlicensed products has already begun to dry up. This results in a decisive negotiating advantage for our clients as we reassert their IP rights. Using this approach has allowed us to obtain compliance and recover damages from once-recalcitrant foreign manufacturers without resorting to litigation.
The effectiveness of this strategy is a function of our ability to accurately triage cases and manipulate economic forces to our clients’ advantage. We begin at the periphery of the problem and establish a consistent record of enforcement. This reinforces the strength of the mark, opens the marketplace up for legitimate goods, and paves the way for an assault on the core of the problem.
Continental has employed this tactic to return marks to clients who had all but relinquished them to the public domain. Our trademark reclamation efforts have also been the basis for developing a robust licensing program to supplant markets in which counterfeits dominate. This is a clear example of how a business-focused solution can produce a victory where protracted litigation would likely fail.