Strategies, please

Attendees of this year’s Brand Protection & Anti-Counterfeiting Summit in Berlin were treated to talks on the best strategies to employ in defence of a brand

Attendees heard from eBay’s senior legal counsel of intellectual property, Sandro Chiesura, at the 2016 Brand Protection and Anti-Counterfeiting Summit, who said the platform is planning to further develop its cooperation with brands under its Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Programme.

Chiesura said the platform is now working with brands to develop targeted protection strategies, and that VeRO, its notice and takedown system, is at the forefront of this cooperation, with brands having higher success rates in removing counterfeits from eBay after using the system.

According to eBay’s website, VeRO now counts more than 10,000 companies and individuals representing every type of intellectual property as participants.

Chiesura said: “Disputes and reports from rights owners are very important. We try to mesh all our information together so that our anti-counterfeiting department can work with law enforcement effectively.”

“One of the things that’s really important for us in prevention of counterfeits is to open a clear portal of information between brands and sellers. We try to work with right owners to maximise the strengths of everybody. Considering all the information we have, and the reports we get from right owners, we have created a complementary system where we can get the most information to protect the right owners.”

The VeRO programme also allows participants to provide information about their IP policies on the eBay platform, allowing sellers to have a better understanding of why their listing may have been removed.

During the session, an audience member asked if it might be possible for the platform to ban the sale of consistently counterfeited goods, and only allow them to be sold on eBay by official rights holders.

Chiesuro said that is “a not so simple case to tackle”. He added: “But of course we try to support the rights owners as best we can.”

“When it is possible to detect it, we can attempt to solve it but we see that it is more efficient to work on a seller level than a product level. Finding a way to block something that consistently infringes is something we are open to discussions about.”

An authentication situation

During another session, panellists said that physical and digital product authentication could greatly increase protection of a brand owner’s product

One panellist at the event in Berlin enthused that a “brand protection strategy affects all departments in the company”.

“As IP becomes more globalised, so too must a company’s brand protection strategy,” the panellist added.

The panellist said that physical and digital product authentication could create a higher scope of awareness for authorities, such as customs, to identify a counterfeit product.

“Brand owners should make it easier for customs to identify the infringed products, and by adding product authentication it will help customs and create important evidence for prosecution.”

Further, authentication will allow the customer to become involved, making it far harder for the counterfeiter to convincingly duplicate products, according to the panellist.

“Product authentication won’t make the problem go away, but it will definitely help you gain control and protect all the other elements of your brand protection strategy.”

Evidence-based policy

Next, Dr Ros Lynch, director of copyright and intellectual property enforcement at the UK IP Office (IPO), said infringement evidence is vital to creating good policy to protect rights owners.

Lynch said that “bringing IP into the spotlight” can ensure that the government implements evidence-based policy.

She said: “There is lots of pressure to try to provide a balanced system, and the only way we can do that is to provide really good evidence.”

Lynch also called for private companies to share more with agencies such as the UKIPO and the City of London Police IP Crime Unit (PIPCU) to ensure that their rights are protected.

She recognised that it has always been very difficult to get the private sector to share its IP information, but she said that the UKIPO requires this information to effectively combat infringement.

“If we don’t get this information, it is extremely difficult for us to have a sense of where the criminals will go next—we need to be able to respond.”

Lynch pointed to PIPCU’s Infringing Website List as a constant source of evidence that benefits rights owners and helps to support protection efforts.

She said that evidence helps enforcement agencies to understand the whole infringement supply chain, meaning they can tackle it at its source.

“We’re really trying to understand the whole process and understand how illegal and counterfeit goods make it through the supply chain,” Lynch explained.

Communication is key

Attendees later heard that to build an effective brand and trademark protection strategy, a company requires clear understanding and company-wide communication.

A panellist said that in the modern world, “brands and trademarks help drive companies forward, make them recognised and respected”, and must be handled effectively.

“Rule one of your company’s strategy is that you must own your brand. Without legal ownership, your brand equity will be zero.”

“You must come up with an idea that is original and respectable.”

Further, attendees heard that monitoring the use of a brand and trademarks is pivotal in order to efficiently protect them.

“The second layer of a strong brand and trademark portfolio is to have a good strategy. You must have good contact with other shareholders in your company to ensure that your brand strategy covers all the areas of expertise that are relevant to your portfolio,” the panellist explained.

The panellist said that companies must keep in contact with all facets of their business to ensure a strong brand protection strategy.

“For example, my company was not aware of its brand significance early on, and we found that our competitors were actually creating products and attaching our brand to it, using it to propel their products.”

“This actually led to my position being created, as my company needed to ensure that our brand protection strategy covered issues like this so that we could maximise value in our brand.”

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