Your brand is your business identity. Keeping it safe
against copycats, counterfeiters and competitors is vital to the
viability and success of your enterprise. Whether your organization
is a multinational corporation or a fledgling startup, without a
solid protection strategy in place, your company’s brand image
is vulnerable to misrepresentation, tarnishment and even a lack of
definition and consistency.
A robust brand protection strategy is built upon a foundation of
Intellectual Property (IP) rights and the awareness of how best to
employ them. We examine how this can be achieved, why it is needed
and what impact it has on an organization.
Talk to us to protect your brand!
The basics: What is a brand protection strategy?
To maintain the integrity and reputation of your deliverables,
there are a series of actions you can and should take. First and
foremost, you need to secure your goods and services with
trademarks in all jurisdictions where you operate. Doing this will
ensure the recognizability of your brand’s offerings and
reinforce any perceptions customers develop. However, even a registered trademark is not immune to
infringement, and there are multiple ways an IP portfolio can be
impinged upon, each to the detriment of the brand owner:
- Counterfeiting of products or designs
- Patent infringement
- Copyright infringement and piracy
- Rogue websites that impersonate, hijack or besmirch others
- Trademark squatting — where a trademark is registered in
bad faith, usually to extort from legitimate operators in the
After going to great lengths to create your services and
cultivate a positive brand image, trusting your new business to the
whims of the international marketplace without IP protections puts
all your previous efforts on the line.
Needless to say, with so many avenues for bad actors to abuse a
brand and its image, there are a number of preventative and
protective measures you can take to counteract them. With a firm
bedrock of IP rights and a rigorous enforcement policy, you can
protect your brand both in the real world and online.
The need for brand protection
The fashion industry is – unfortunately – an
excellent demonstrator of the IP perils faced by prominent labels.
In this case, cheaper brands, sometimes referred to as “fast
fashion,” imitate the designs of industry leaders to
capitalize on distinctive, popular looks. Litigation is frequent
and often costly in the sector as parties fight tooth and nail to
defend their most valuable assets. As an example, in 2017, U.S.
clothes retailer Forever 21 preemptively filed against Italian
design house Gucci to cancel the latter’s trademarks for
blue-red-blue and green-red-green stripes on fashion items. Though
a confidential out-of-court settlement was reached the
following year, the fact Gucci maintains its registered trademarks
can only be interpreted as a success for the boutique. The prestige
of a designer brand like Gucci is a huge part of its value, so to
have its distinctiveness diluted by poorer-quality imitators
diminishes its reputation as a status symbol and style icon.
Not only is open competition fierce, but the impact of
black-market sales on genuine brands in almost every industry is
undeniable and severe. According to a 2019 report published by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, fake goods made up 3.3% of 2016’s world
trade, or roughly $500 billion USD. This is a tremendous amount of
revenue for official brands to be missing out on.
Benefits of brand protection strategies
Trademark registration and design patents allow you to keep a
firm grip on the reins of your IP and implement anti-counterfeiting
measures such as digital watermarks, QR codes and other tracking
systems. Being able to verify your genuine products ensures your
brand reputation is not blackened through misrepresentation or
confusion with inferior products or services. By the same token,
you will have clear avenues for legal recourse in the event you
discover an infringement of your registered rights.
Clothing and footwear are two of the most prominent targets for
counterfeiters. In the 2021 fiscal year, the total value of these
types of fakes seized in the United States was estimated at $588 million USD.
Going beyond the sale of counterfeit products online, the
virtual impersonation of entire brands — known as
“brandjacking” — is an illicit industry and a real
threat to legitimate owners worldwide. Whereas fake products simply
imitate the genuine article, brandjackers seek to siphon off trade
from their targets by replicating marketing content and other
customer-facing material. Thus a winning brand protection strategy
will incorporate tactics, services and software that proactively
address the threat of online brand abuse.
There are some instances where the preventative measures of an
extensive brand protection strategy are especially worthwhile. In
the case of medicine, for example, keeping bad actors from
distributing an imitation product may protect customers from
serious ailments or even death. In 2021, the World Health
Organization issued nine serious medical product alerts related to
falsified drugs and tests, five of which were related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The
counterfeiting of medication can have severe effects on more than
just brand reputation and therefore warrants the most stringent
action to minimize its occurrence and any possible liability.
The post-lockdown boom in online shopping and the increasing
skill of counterfeiters in creating more passable forgeries have
resulted in a serious uphill struggle for brand owners. What is
more, taking action against infringers typically is not a matter of
chasing each and every potential case since there will be a varying
scale of severity and viability, and litigation is inevitably
costly in time, money and employee resources. Instead, taking
strong legal action against the most serious offenders delivers the
best chances of a cost-effective victory – and of recovering
suitable damages – and serves to discourage further would-be
However, counterfeiters often operate as part of larger criminal
organizations and / or out of jurisdictions with weaker IP
enforcement regimes. Pursuing international infringement in civil
cases can be further complicated by the fact that cybercriminals
can disguise their location by using virtual private networks
(VPNs). All too often, disrupting fraudsters’ supply chains and
limiting their ability to commit their crime of choice requires a
concerted effort from national and multinational law enforcement
Though tackling criminal operations head-on is a task for law
enforcement, companies and private individuals can play a key role
in alerting the proper authorities of infringing activities. Thus
routine IP monitoring is vital to maintaining a healthy market.
As the sophistication of counterfeiters and digital malefactors
has accelerated and increased, so too has the need for additional
customs agents and other government officials to reduce the
opportunity for these illicit activities. This final hurdle is one
that is entirely beyond the control of brand owners, regardless of
the proficiency of their legal and IP teams.
Taking effective action
Without exception, registering your IP is at the core of any
brand protection strategy. While there are many aspects of a
business’s IP portfolio that obviously need to be protected
— your logo and brand name, for example — it can be
easy to overlook some of the more commonplace assets you use,
including general-consumption media. Photography and videography,
print advertisements, radio spots, television commercials and
written content all constitute a part of your brand. As we have
seen, brandjackers may attempt to leverage this material to their
own ends, so it is essential to guard your copyrights vigilantly as
However, having all of your intangible assets registered and
suitably recognized as a part of your brand is not sufficient for
the long term, as your portfolio, marketing campaigns and business
locations are not static. As such, your brand protection strategy
needs to adapt to your own evolving situation and corporate goals.
Comprehensive IP protections lay the groundwork for a solid brand
protection strategy, which can be plotted to meet the particular
needs of your organization. Enlisting expert help from an IP
service provider not only takes the weight off your internal teams,
but it comes with the assurance that your brand protection strategy
will be properly executed now and in the future.
Brand protection strategies often require a multidisciplinary
approach, combining the expertise of legal professionals with the
business insights of industry consultants. As an IP full-service
provider with global reach, Dennemeyer houses all the experts you
need under one roof. Take advantage of the vast stores of knowledge
and experience at Dennemeyer & Associates to protect your brand in the real world and
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.