What are the most pressing issues that brands are facing when protecting and enforcing their trademarks online?
Online counterfeiting continues to be a problem. Because of it, brands get victimised twice: they lose sales and sustain damage to their brand equity. The problem persists. In fact, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s recent report, The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting and Piracy, speaks to the increasing importance of internet and ecommerce in international trade.
On the one hand, we need greater coordination and communication between government agencies and brand owners. Counterfeiters operate in a complex network that spans borders and works both online and offline. The only way to enforce IP protection is to have governments speak with one another and work hand-in-hand with brand owners to ensure that goods shipped across borders are legitimate products.
On the other hand, we need to work across industries and sectors to develop more effective and innovative ways to stop counterfeit goods from being sold online. One way to accomplish this is by bringing intermediaries to the fold and working closely with these companies on developing solutions to this issue.
The IACC’s RogueBlock initiative goes after the money—how effective has this programme been since its inception?
Since launching RogueBlock five years ago, more than 5,500 merchant accounts have been terminated that were affiliated with over 200,000 websites. The key to fighting counterfeiters is to take the profit out of their trade, and RogueBlock does exactly that. We are pleased that our partnership with major the credit card companies and payment providers has been helpful to our members.
China remains a top priority and the IACC was ahead of the game in collaborating with Alibaba—what more do you need the intermediaries to do to fight online counterfeiting?
We are pleased that our partnership with Alibaba Group has produced positive results for members who participate in the IACC MarketSafe programme, which identifies and removes counterfeit listings on Taobao and Tmall. To date, the programme has removed more than 170,000 infringing listings and banned more than 5,000 seller storefronts from Taobao and Tmall platforms. The programme results in a 100-percent takedown rate when companies stand behind their claims. We recognise that more needs to be done. The IACC will lead a call to action and build a coalition of the willing. One company or one marketplace cannot fight counterfeiting alone. It will take a collaborative effort by intermediaries and brand owners sharing best practices and implementing sound policies.
This is why the IACC created the general membership category. General membership is reserved for companies that are not directly or substantially affected by counterfeiting, but whose industry position or policies make them a potential partner with the IACC in its mission to combat counterfeiting and piracy. Companies such as Alibaba, The RealReal Inc and Wish.com have already joined, and we invite other intermediaries that are committed to being part of the solution to participate.
How is the IACC working to develop more of these collaborations?
From collaborating with major credit card companies to develop RogueBlock to working with Alibaba Group to offer IACC MarketSafe to participating members, the IACC will continue to pave the way, building bridges with different parties to develop innovative solutions to counterfeiting.
We are currently working on a number of major initiatives that will be some of the most innovative anti-counterfeiting programmes to date. We are looking forward to sharing the news with our members.
What will your message be for members at the Spring Conference in Orlando?
Counterfeiters are evolving, and our ways to combat them should, too. This includes engaging with and working with all industries and agencies, increasing cooperation on current enforcement initiatives and ensuring that we all continue to be innovative in our approach to anti-counterfeiting. As the leading global anti-counterfeiting organisation, the IACC will continue to build bridges and lead IP enforcement.
Is the counterfeit fight being won?
Counterfeiting is a complex and ever-evolving problem. Counterfeiters are sophisticated and adapt to successful anti-counterfeiting efforts and technology. The key for rights holders and governments is to continue to also adapt, work together and use innovative tools and partnerships to combat counterfeiting.
Finally, can you confirm the keynote speakers you have lined up for the Spring Conference?
This year we’re honoured to have a number of high-level speakers participate in our opening ceremony. Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba, will deliver the keynote speech at the Spring Conference. Ma will address the importance of ecommerce, the industry coming together to collectively fight counterfeiting, and Alibaba’s efforts to protect IP rights on its platforms.
The US ambassador to China, Max Baucus, will speak to the US government’s efforts in China to promote strong protection and enforcement of IP rights and to combat counterfeiting and piracy by bringing industry (both rights holders and intermediaries) together in order to collaborate to find new, practical, and effective solutions to this shared problem.
Lastly, the White House’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator, Danny Marti, has been invited to speak at the conference’s second-day opening ceremony. This year’s conference will be the most exciting one yet. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Orlando.