I’m sure you realize how important it is to protect your brand’s identity, especially after working so hard to establish it. There are a myriad of ways competitors can infringe on your brand identify, and we’re going to show various cases where brand identity was infringed and successfully protected. We’re also going to give you some useful tips for protecting your brand identity online.
Some statistics on brand and trademark infringement
A CompuMark survey reports that 47% of UK trademark professionals have litigated trademark infringement cases related to social media names. This figure was 43% in the US, 38% in Germany, 32% in France, and 14% in Italy. However, Germany had the highest percentage (48%) of infringement cases related to web domains.
Unless you specifically follow websites that follow copyright and trademark news, you probably wouldn’t know just how many thousands of cases are litigated each year, and some of the settlements are massive.
For example, in Lowry’s Reports, Inc. v. Legg Mason Inc, Legg Mason was found guilty of copyright infringement by reproducing and disseminating a financial newsletter published by Lowry’s Report. An employee at Lowry’s had signed up to receive a single newsletter, and the contractual terms prohibited reproducing and disseminating the newsletter. However, the employee forwarded the newsletter to branch offices, business partners, and other employees.
The court ruled in favor of Lowry’s Reports, and awarded Lowry’s Reports $20million USD in statutory damages.
Tips on protecting your brand’s online identity
Domains and Social Media Accounts
Your website domain and social media accounts are important for your branding, and of course you have it registered. But it’s quite easy to fool people with alternative spellings or URLs of a brand, as some trolls are known to do. There is a practice known as “cybersquatting”, where someone will buy URLs similar to yours, such as .org and .net versions of the website. For example, let’s say you own PaintSupplies.com, but somebody buys PaintSupplies.net, or creates Paint-Supplies.com, etc.
You should create a little list of spelling and URL variations of your brand’s URL, and buy up those domains.
This also applies to social media. For example, the Facebook page “Hope This Helps” engages in customer service trolling, wherein they create Facebook accounts with the logos of branded companies, and account names like “Customer Service”. They then begin replying to customer complaints in the comment section of the company’s real Facebook page, typically in a rude or condescending manner.
It sounds like fun and games, but it can hurt a company’s online reputation when people believe the fake customer service accounts.
Of course trademarking your business name is a smart decision, as this gives you a lot of protection against people using your business name. But you can also trademark your logo, slogan, and product names.
There’s a recent interesting case where startup online bank Current has sued Facebook, as Facebook revealed the logo for their Libra cryptocurrency, which appears remarkably similar to Current’s own logo.
What makes the case interesting is that both logos were designed by the same San Francisco branding firm, Character, who has also been named in the suit.
NDAs are a great way to protect your brand identity in the development stages of an idea. Let’s say you’re developing an app – you can’t trademark something that hasn’t technically been created yet, ideas cannot be trademarked. But you can ask anyone you hire to sign an NDA, so they cannot discuss details about your project, use assets or resources from your project in the creation of their own app, etc. Here is a list of things that can be covered in an NDA, from LegalVision::
- Processes: Manufacturing, chemical, and engineering processes
- Business Strategies and Methods: marketing schemes, advertising strategies, and product launch announcements
- Designs and Specifications: blueprints, drawings, documents for machines, buildings, products, inventions and patent applications
- Formulas: The most commonly protected trade secrets e.g. ingredients that give Coca-Cola its distinct taste
- Physical Devices: Machines, objects, devices and hardware configurations, as well as prototypes or samples, however, trade secret protection is often lost once they are made available to the public
- Computer Software: qualifies for protection by an NDA as the software code is not easily known or ascertained
- Vendor & Customer Lists: can be covered by an NDA depending on whether a list can easily be obtained by other means.
Trademark laws vary by country, so you should definitely register your trademark internationally. There are several steps to doing this, of course, but Entrepreneur has a great guide on how to get it done.
By registering your trademarks internationally, you will of course be protecting your brand’s online identity from international competitors.
Train your employees
It is crucial that your colleagues and employees understand the basics of staying safe online. Online security starts with such simple rules as making sure your passwords are strong. However, there are many more ways to ensure your security online and your employees should be aware of them. Possible option is to invest in cybersecurity courses and make them obligatory for everyone in your company.
Monitor and enforce your branding
Even if you own trademarks to your branding, it is up to you to be vigilant in watching for infringement. There are several ways you can do this using online tools. You can protect your web content by enrolling with DMCA.
You can set up Google Alerts on any topic or phrase, including your own brand name. This will allow you to easily see where your brand is being mentioned online, as well as anyone infringing on your brand trademark in obvious ways.
And of course, monitor your competitors and start-ups for various types of infringement, such as products you have trademarked, etc.
Erika Rykun is an independent copywriter and content manager. She is an avid reader who appreciates unread books more than read ones.
More information about Irish Tech News and the Business Showcase
FYI the ROI for you is => Irish Tech News now gets over 1.5 million monthly views, and up to 900k monthly unique visitors, from over 160 countries. We have over 860,000 relevant followers on Twitter on our various accounts & were recently described as Ireland’s leading online tech news site and Ireland’s answer to TechCrunch, so we can offer you a good audience!
Since introducing desktop notifications a short time ago, which notify readers directly in their browser of new articles being published, over 16000 people have now signed up to receive them ensuring they are instantly kept up to date on all our latest content. Desktop notifications offer a unique method of serving content directly to verified readers and bypass the issue of content getting lost in people’s crowded news feeds.
Drop us a line if you want to be featured, guest post, suggest a possible interview, or just let us know what you would like to see more of in our future articles. We’re always open to new and interesting suggestions for informative and different articles. Contact us, by email, twitter or whatever social media works for you and hopefully we can share your story too and reach our global audience.
Irish Tech News