The global counterfeit goods industry is estimated to be worth over US$500 billion a year, accounting for 3% of international trade. Online sales make up a vast proportion of that figure and protecting your brand against online fakes can be a challenge.
Here are our top ten measures to help you guard against and deal with online counterfeits:
1. Devise a suitable anti-counterfeiting strategy for your business
Different types of products require different strategies and yours will be key to the success of your anti-counterfeiting efforts.
2. File recordal applications with customs authorities
Doing so assists local customs authorities to seize suspect goods as they enter the country.
3. Register brands with retail platforms’ rights owners’ programmes
Two of the major programmes are Ebay’s Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) programme and Amazon’s Brand Registry. The platforms will take interim action whilst the brand owner investigates the suspected counterfeits.
4. Enlist security specialists to assist with the tracking and protection of your products
Online monitoring, data collection and other security measures are widely available via specialist companies, or software can be installed within your organisation to enable you to monitor online sales.
5. Make test purchases of items suspected to be counterfeit and send ‘cease and desist’ letters to counterfeit sellers
The items can be tested and used in further action against the counterfeiter. Letters before action can be an effective way of stopping counterfeiters quickly, particularly if they are smaller sellers. They can also be used to extract key supply chain information. Private investigators can be called upon if sellers’ information is lacking or if aliases are required to conduct test buys.
6. Consider civil proceedings for trade mark or copyright infringement
Where the products or packaging bear your trade marks, or where sellers use images of your product, this can be worth the cost of court proceedings as they offer remedies such as injunctions, damages, an account of profits and delivery-up and destruction of infringing products.
7. Criminal proceedings are also available
There are various organisations that can help. In the UK these include the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
8. Report to Trading Standards who will also investigate and prosecute IP crime
Reports can be lodged at your local Trading Standards office or Citizens Advice office.
9. Review consumers’ comments for reports of fakes on retail platforms and review websites
This can be a quick and easy way of flagging suspected counterfeit goods. Consumers often leave negative feedback if they believe they have received a counterfeit product.
10. Inform and educate consumers about the existence and dangers of counterfeit goods
It is sometimes considered bad publicity for a brand, but consumers would rather be aware if they are in danger or if they are being mis-sold their favourite brands. Advertising campaigns and mail-shots to customers, including how they can distinguish between genuine goods and fakes and details of where they can report suspected fakes, can be very effective