The increasing use of online platforms such as Google and other forms of social media has transformed the way that business is done. Clarity, consistency and authenticity are crucial to the success of a brand. Brand owners are required to put measures in place to promote brand loyalty, protect brand equity, revenues and profits, to leverage commercialisation of the brand, prevent brand erosion and to build brand confidence. A brand's ability to respond immediately to brand abuse can have a profound effect in preserving the way that brand is perceived.
What kinds of abuse are brands facing?
- Ambush marketing (an unauthorised company piggybacks on the goodwill of a brand by attempting to obtain publicity or exposure using the brands profile);
- Unauthorised use of Intellectual Property (IP);
- False affiliation, association and impersonation;
- Cybersquatting (registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name in bad faith as it contains a trademark belonging to someone else, with an intent to profit from the goodwill of that trademark);
- Unauthorised use of goods and services;
- Diversion of traffic from official websites;
- Linking goods and services to undesirable content; and
So how can you protect a brand?
A brand can be protected in many ways – from establishing clear policies and procedures to auditing and monitoring abuse, to using war rooms to identify misuse of IP and negative publicity.
However, investing in legal protection is also key to safeguarding a brand.
Registering IP early, along with obtaining copyright assignments (including in logos and imagery) will assist in the fight against IP abuse. Copyright assignment is often overlooked and can cause problems when it comes to enforcing rights. When registering a brand the owner should thoroughly analyse the trade mark classes in which it requires protection. Classification specifications must adequately describe the way in which the brand is currently using, and intends to use its IP so as to cover future developments and advances in technology.
Preparing key documentation such as cease and desist letters tailored to each form of abuse along with the drafting of takedown notices to internet service providers, domain name registrars, social networking sites, and for example ‘app’ stores, will enable brands to move quickly to stop the abuse.
It is also worthwhile spending time and resource preparing for any litigation which may arise from brand abuse. Drafting opposition documents and witness statements with supporting applications for breach of trademark and injunctive relief, well in advance, will facilitate immediate action. Advanced preparation can substantially reduce damaging exposure which could otherwise adversely affect the value of the brand.
With brand visibility expanding exponentially in today’s world of electronic media, the need to take appropriate steps to protect this key aspect of any high profile business is vital to the continued success of that brand.