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Last updated on: January 18, 2023
A business’s competitive advantage comes from its unique intellectual property, but if left unprotected or unmonitored , intellectual property can be stolen and lead to massive financial losses for your business.
It’s not just big brands and corporations that are being targeted for IP theft now– smaller brands have been affected just as much. According to a report, intellectual property theft costs businesses over $600 billion annually, in just the US alone.
In this article, we discuss intellectual property theft and everything you need to know to prevent it.
Intellectual Property theft means robbing businesses or people of their ideas, creative expressions, or inventions in order to profit off of their hard work. It can also be defined as the act of stealing data from a business.
The most important intellectual property for a brand can be anything from trade secrets to copyrights, trademarks, patents, customer records, and even financial data.
Since there are different types of intellectual property that are at risk of being used unlawfully or being stolen, the first step should always be to identify the type of intellectual property and understand how a bad actor could violate your IP rights.
Patents give businesses the exclusive rights to control the manufacturing and sale of their inventions. There are two types of patents available – design and utility patents. The product features you can register as a patent depends on the kind of patent you get.
Patent infringement occurs when an individual or organization uses your patented invention without your explicit permission.
Trademarks can be logos, designs, words, or phrases that help distinguish your brand or its products from your competitors.
Trademark infringement occurs when a competitor or third party makes unauthorized use of your trademark, usually to sell similar products. The goal of trademark infringement is almost always to deceive customers into believing they are buying the original product.
Copyright is an intellectual property that helps protect original works of authorship. When you copyright your original creative work, whether it’s literary, artistic, musical, or educational, you get the exclusive right to use and distribute it. Though it is important to note that copyright does not protect the idea or the method of the work, but the actual work itself.
Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, either in parts or as a whole, without the permission of the copyright owner.
Trade secrets are pieces of confidential information that are valuable to a business, such as internal processes or products. In most cases, these trade secrets are secured by non-disclosure agreements as sharing them with a third party can lead to a loss in business reputation or your competitors copying your products.
Trade secrets are mostly things that cannot be directly protected by intellectual property law.
For instance, the formula for Coca-Cola is locked in a vault because it cannot be directly patented, making it a process trade secret. If the formula were to become public, it would take away the company’s main unique selling proposition (USP).
Trade secret violations occur when someone, usually a company employee, violates the NDA and shares the trade secrets with the business’s competitors or makes the trade secrets public.
Counterfeiting refers to imitating authentic products with the intent to sell them directly or exchange them for originals. The goal is to deceive people into believing that they are buying the real thing. Counterfeits can involve copyright, trademark, and even patent infringement.
Many luxury fashion brands have been dealing with widespread counterfeits online and struggle to shut them down. Bad actors often create websites and social media pages with original product images as well as descriptions to deceive customers.
Registering your brand’s intellectual properties is one of the best and most effective ways to protect it. This can include trademarking the brand name, logo, designs, slogans, and any other words.
You should also copyright your original product images and any other creative works that uniquely distinguish your brand. In case there are some new product inventions that you are selling, you should make sure to file for a patent for those so none of your competitors can blatantly copy your products.
When you have a generic intellectual property, it can be easily copied, replicated, or stolen, making theft even more easier. For instance, Nike and Adidas have relatively simple brand designs and logos. Nike’s Swoosh logo and Adidas’s signature three stripes do not take a lot to copy directly.
Instead, when you make your branding unique, it decreases the chances of intellectual property theft. This can be achieved by creating more complex logos and unique designs.
While registering your IP definitely protects it, you should also put an intellectual property clause in your business’s terms and conditions agreement to explicitly share the consequences of any kind of intellectual property theft.
You can start by stating that all intellectual property, including copyrights and trademarks, is owned by you and/or your company. Using your IP without your permission is illegal and you will take legal action against the violators.
Intellectual property theft can have a huge impact on your business and market share. If left unchecked, stolen IP can take out a major chunk of your revenue and customer base. It can take years for your business to completely recover from the losses.
That is why you should constantly monitor your IP and shut down any cases of theft before they cause permanent damage to your business.
The intellectual property tracking and protection solution by Red Points can automatically find and remove all kinds of IP infringements. It actively protects your brand by scanning marketplaces and websites 24/7, and automatically enforcing shutdowns of infringed listings. Moreover, the solution uses AI to prioritize potential IP infringements that need your attention.
With the pandemic forcing businesses to move their operations online, more brands than ever are now struggling with counterfeits, impersonation, and piracy issues.
Intellectual property theft consequences can be devastating for any brand and lead to loss of brand reputation, revenue, and customer loyalty. Avoiding IP theft now means constantly monitoring your brand mentions online and looking out for bad actors trying to ride off of your brand’s success.
See how you can automatically find and remove intellectual property infringements with Red Points.