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The dedicated ecommerce website builder, Shopify, has enabled many business owners to achieve their sales dreams without having to pay huge sums of money. However, dreams can quickly turn into nightmares when bad actors get a hold of your brand.
A recent report by Fakespot found that 21% of online stores on Shopify were “related to fraudulent practices”. Unfortunately, ecommerce platforms are fertile ground for fraudsters. By stealing your logo or taglines, scammers easily get access to the brand reputation you put so much time, money, and effort into building. The result? Your brand reputation suffers, and ultimately, so do your sales.
In this article you will learn:
A trademark is a word, symbol (like a brand logo), or phrase used by a company to differentiate itself from other businesses. Like copyright and patents, a trademark constitutes a brand’s intellectual property (IP). A trademark serves as the foundation of a brand’s identity, and a way for customers to identify a brand. Think of the curved arrow for Amazon, or the big yellow M we instantly associate with Mcdonald’s.
Service marks are the same as trademarks but are used for businesses that offer services rather than products, such as an airline, for example. Both service marks and trademarks offer the same protection for businesses.
You do not have to register a trademark for you to be the trademark owner. However, it is highly advisable to register your trademark as an extra protection for your brand.
Importantly, your trademark rights are only applicable in the country you are registered in. So for example, if you are a US company, you will need to register your trademark in foreign countries if you want to limit the chances of someone else using your trademark. If you don’t register your trademark in other countries where you want to do business, this can lead to costly problems down the line.
Once your trademark is registered, you can file a legal complaint against another brand in the same territory that is infringing on your IP, and you will be much more likely to win. You can monetize your trademark once it’s registered too if you plan on selling your trademark to other businesses.
Legally, a trademark infringement is defined as the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark that leads to confusion, deception, or misunderstanding about the actual company the product or service is coming from.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office always uses the “likelihood of confusion” as the standard upon which it analyses the extent of trademark infringement. The kinds of analyses that will be made will center around the similarity of the marks, the goods, or the services, the strength of the plaintiff’s trademark, and any confusion that was caused as a result.
Trademark infringements can sometimes get out of hand and significantly damage a brand. Cheap, knock-off counterfeits of your products may tempt customers away from your shop, or low-quality products could become associated with your brand, and your reputation suffers as a result. In the end, trademark infringements lead to the same thing: a compromised bottom line.
The best way to protect your brand is through automated software. Red Points can detect thousands of counterfeit products and unauthorized sellers and automatically remove them, allowing you to avoid the hassle of manually finding and reporting infringements yourself.
Of course, there are many millions of businesses out there and it is possible for people to use someone’s trademark without realizing it. There are, however, many counterfeit sellers on all manner of ecommerce and social media platforms who steal trademarks purposefully, and Shopify is no exception.
Counterfeit products are designed to look identical to the original, existing product, with the same trademarked names, logos, and symbols. The intention is to deceive customers into believing that the counterfeit is the real deal. This is a particular problem for the fashion industry. For example, a scammer on Shopify may be selling a new Rolex watch or a Gucci T-Shirt – but in fact, they are rip-off replicas of the original.
Sometimes, businesses or individuals purposefully use other businesses’ trademarks on their listings in their titles, images, or descriptions without authorization from the original business owner. This helps them to sell their own products by hijacking another brand’s reputation. The goods listed may be similar to those offered by the original brand, but they are not counterfeits. However, they are infringing on another brand’s trademark. This can also be referred to as “brand name misuse” or “logo misuse”.
Perhaps you see some shoes with a tick that looks a little shorter than the Nike one. Or a bag that has Louise Vuitton written on it, instead of Louis. This is a shady area in trademark law, but as discussed above, it is considered an infringement if it has caused confusion on behalf of the consumer.
There are a few examples that may appear to be trademark infringements but are in fact within the parameters of IP law.
It is not considered a trademark infringement if a business has the same name as another but sells products in a different category. For example, if a jewelry business is called “Sparkle”, it will not be able to report another business called “Sparkle” that sells cleaning products, since this would not cause confusion on behalf of the customer. In other words, if the same name is registered in different trademark classes, an infringement claim won’t go far.
If someone buys some Chanel boots and then resells them as second-hand Chanel boots, there is no trademark infringement.
The good news is that Shopify responds promptly to takedown requests, whether they are about copyright or trademark infringements.
In their Acceptable Use Policy, Shopify clearly prohibits the posting or uploading of content that infringes on other businesses’ trademarks. According to the policy, Shopify aims to “expeditiously respond to clear notices of alleged trademark infringement”. If they deem the material as infringing on a brand’s trademark, they will either remove or disable access to the infringing material, and they could even terminate the user’s account.
For both procedures, you will need the following information to hand:
After clicking the link to the online form, you will be directed to this page which will ask you to log in.
Once you have logged in, you will see the below screen. Under “Who owns the trademark”, click “I am the trademark owner” if you own the business.
You have to then identify your trademark. This means explaining what your trademark is (a logo, or your brand name, for example), indicating the countries your trademark is registered in, and giving the specific trademark registration number as well as your category of products.
Next, you need to provide links to the infringing listings and a clear description of how they are infringing your trademark.
Finally, you have to tick all of the below boxes and electronically sign the trademark infringement notice.