It’s hard enough to get your brand noticed, without someone stealing your thunder.
But IP infringement is rife on the internet. There aren’t many controls in place to prevent bad faith imitations of popular brands. In most cases, it’s up to the infringed brand to fight for their intellectual rights.
So what can you do if you’re facing IP appropriation? Read on below to find out.
What is IP Infringement?
Not sure whether your brand is suffering IP infringement? It may help to know exactly what that means.
Copyright law will cover almost any act of creation online, assuming there’s a certain level of originality to the created work. But creation doesn’t imply fiction – this also applies to blog posts, emails, and company materials.
Copyright applies by default at the moment of creation. You don’t need to file for copyright protection. If you’ve created something original that meets copyright criteria, it applies instantly.
There’s one major caveat to this, and that’s ‘Fair Use’. But fair use doesn’t allow a brand to copy your homework. Broadly speaking, it’s about shifting context, such as in the form of criticism or parody.
It’s important for brands to know that fair use can also cover facts and figures. This may be relevant if you’re contesting over blog posts.
For the most part, however, any original material you create for your brand will become your intellectual property at the moment of publication.
The best defense against IP infringement is a good offense. Planning out your strategy in advance could block would-be infringers from doing what they like.
Choose Your Brand Wisely
Considering a few things when you launch your business could make it easier to protect in the long run. The more unique your brand, the easier it will be to protect.
You’ll be able to register a unique brand as a trademark. Domains and usernames will likely be available for use. And rivals will find it harder to create suspiciously similar substitutes for the purposes of IP infringement.
Be sure to carry out research in advance to find out if your brand name is already in use. The internet is vast, so there’s a good chance someone has already snapped up your name if it’s an obvious one.
Go Domain Crazy
Relative to your overall business cost, web domains are cheap to register.
By this we mean you should register any and all domains that are relevant to your brand.
This could mean laying claim to everything from .com to .org domains. It could mean snapping up common abbreviations and misspellings.
The point is to prevent the bad guys from seizing domains that could hurt your business. You don’t have to use these spare domains. They can simply redirect to your main site.
This preventative measure could stop others sniping relevant domains to criticise your business or lead customers astray.
Reserve Your Brand Elsewhere
Ever seen those fake celebrity profiles on Twitter?
Twitter has a verification system so users can tell imposters apart from the real deal. The fact that system even exists should be enough to suggest you need to claim your identity fast.
Even if you don’t intend to build your social media presence right away, lay claim to your brand name anyway. Sign up for sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
This prevents one of the easiest methods of IP infringement. Most sites don’t do anything to recover inactive names, so there’s no risk even if you don’t use them right away.
Letting your brand name fall into the hands of others spells bad news. At best, search engines will direct traffic to an unrelated service. At worst, the account could be used to post negative feedback or criticism of your business.
You could even find your customers tricked by the fake company, bringing your reputation into question.
Sometimes, you don’t have a choice but to fight back.
Fighting an online IP battle can be tricky. The internet is so huge that some companies are bound to share names. And ISPs in foreign jurisdictions may help to protect a brand from legal consequences.
That’s why it’s so important to act first rather than react.
But if it comes down to it, you’re not completely powerless. Many online platforms provide a way to fight brand identity theft.
On Twitter, for example, you can report a profile for impersonation. So long as your company information is legit and you can show good evidence that your rival is violating your IP, you might convince Twitter to remove the user.
Try to approach IP infringement through the tools available through social media platforms. Working within the system and in full cooperation with its operators will lead to a better response than threatening the infringing party directly.
If you’re unsure how to proceed, try contacting the platform through its customer service department. Any larger network will likely have a policy in place for dealing with these disputes.
The Dreaded DMCA
If someone is stealing your copyrighted work, it’s time to break out the big guns.
A DMCA Takedown Notice allows you to aggressively assert ownership of your own work. If someone is reusing your video material, for instance, a DMCA might be an appropriate option.
You’ll need to establish a few things before you issue a DMCA notice. The alleged infringer will also have the chance to file a counter-notice to contest your DMCA.
A DMCA isn’t guaranteed to succeed. But if your work sits squarely within your copyright, you have good grounds for a DMCA and it’s likely the site in question will uphold it.
Issuing DMCAs also act as a deterrent in themselves. If you can show your brand is interested in asserting control over its intellectual property, then the bottom-feeders are likely to move on to easier targets.
Fight for Your Right to IP
Sure, you’re fighting an uphill battle to protect your IP. But with a bit of forward-planning and a proactive approach, you can greatly reduce the chances of a rival brand co-opting your property for their own.
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