You find a high-end watch for sale online and the price is relatively cheap. You must have stumbled upon a super good deal! But did you, really?
Most of the time these listings are too good to be true and are more than likely selling knock-offs. Counterfeits cause a slew of problems for both the company and the consumer due to subpar quality and potential safety issues. Sure, it’s great to purchase something at a discount, but how long is the product going to last? What impact will it have on a company’s brand reputation and the cost for their legitimate products? Is the purchase supporting forced labor? Is the product even safe?
And this is where we come in. IPS’ goal is to help companies remove counterfeits from the marketplace to keep their customers safe and satisfied. How do we do it? Let’s use the suspect watch listing as the example for our brand protection walk-through.
Monitor the Marketplace
First, IP Services’ Monitoring and Enforcement team (M&E) will perform a targeted search to locate any infringing listings of their product. The client (in this case, the company that makes the brand of watch) provides criteria on which to search.
Investigate the Listing
After identifying a suspect listing, M&E coordinates with the client and conducts a test purchase (TP), if necessary. Our licensed investigators take the TP order and use one of their many undercover profiles to reach out to the seller to make the buy. The target ships the product to an undercover mailbox location. Then it’s routed back to our Investigations team. During this process, the investigator working the case stays in close contact with the seller, acting like a normal customer. They may even complain about overly long shipping times for some added legitimacy.
The Investigations team starts a Chain of Custody (CoC) document as soon as we receive the product at our door. A CoC is a paper trail of every person or office that handles the watch. It may be used as evidence in court.
Analyze the Product
Investigations then passes the evidence (watch) to Forensics. The Forensics team analyzes it against known exemplars (standards) and determines whether the item is genuine, counterfeit, or otherwise infringing.
Enforce and/or Disrupt
If the item is counterfeit or infringing, the client must decide the next steps. The client may have a Cease and Desist letter (C&D) sent to the target (seller) demanding that they immediately stop selling this item. They may then place the target under investigation at this time and monitor their online activity. If the target continues to sell after receiving the letter, the client can use the C&D as evidence in court. It serves as proof the target was aware of their wrongdoing and did it anyway.
The client may also choose to make a demand for compensation from the target for selling the product in an infringing manner. As another option, the client could have the listing taken down from the marketplace and/or have the webpage removed from search engine results (search delisting).
At every stage of this cycle, the brand owner is as involved as they want to be. This brand protection walk-through shows how the entire Brand Protection Department, from M&E to Investigations to Forensics, works in a synchronized fashion to provide continuous protection for that brand owner’s intellectual property and it’s customers.
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