Hong Kong
14 May 2014
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

INTA: social suicide


Traditional methods of intellectual property protection cannot keep up with social media, said panellists at the International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting in Hong Kong.

Discussing brand protection online, Yuri Mikulka of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth said that the majority of consumers trust what they are told about a brand on social media, meaning that negative responses can have a lasting impact.

The rate at which information is shared on social media means that infringements can be difficult to prevent or deal with, but there are steps that brands can take, she explained.

Evidence to put before a jury is plentiful on social media, said Mikulka. Brands must also make sure that they are present and engaging consumers, monitoring the use of their trademarks, acting quickly when they are infringed, and adjusting their responses to suit the situation.

Tiki Dare of Oracle briefly outlined the ways in which the computer company’s IP is infringed. She said that high-end devices, such as cloud computing servers, are not subject to high-volume counterfeiting.

Components such as memory cards are more likely to be removed from legitimately purchased devices and then re-sold through websites such as eBay.

This can be difficult to tackle in the US because there is no protection against grey marketing, explained Dare. She added that brands must prove a likelihood of confusion if a case goes to court. It’s a different story in Europe, where Oracle has stopped the sale of infringing goods a number of times, including in the UK.

John Robertson of the FBI discussed the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center’s Operation In Our Sites, a long-term law enforcement initiative that targets counterfeiting and piracy on the internet. The centre seized 1413 domain names in 2013. Since the launch of the operation in June 2010, it has seized more than 2700 domain names.

The FBI originally targeted individual infringing websites for take-down, said Robertson, but this was “like a game of wac-a-mole”, with new ones often emerging to replace those that had been dealt with.

The agency decided to target networks of websites instead, and it now goes after the domain names and criminals’ sources of revenue.

Concluding, Robertson said that the FBI could not investigate infringements without the help of brands, which must respond promptly to requests to verify fakes.

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