Enhancing IP services by using legal technology
In this webinar, the following is discussed:
5 easy steps to success in online brand protection
How to deal with the surge of counterfeits on social media
Why do brands need anti-counterfeiting technology
How technology can assist IP lawyers in brand protection
The following is part of the transcript of the webinar, featuring a conversation between Rob Holmes, Founder and CEO of IPCybercrime.com, and Conrado Lamas, Marketing & Communications Manager at Red Points.
Rob Holmes 0:39
In the last two decades, we’ve seen the majority of fakes moved from suburban swap meets and urban alleyways to search engines and social networks.
As the old adage goes, there really is nothing truly new under the sun. Just like the physical world, the web is populated with standalone stores, virtual flea markets, and hidden alleys. If there is such a thing as a good problem, counterfeiting is one of them. The more profitable your intellectual property becomes, the more profitable it will be the counterfeit.
One of the most important needs of a brand owner is the retention and growth of that brand’s value. While sales and marketing are focused on increasing sales, the Legal and Security Teams are in place to keep outside entities from leveraging those efforts for their profit.
Simply put, you must curtail the problem of infringement to a level that is controllable, so you can minimise the exposure the counterfeiters have to their potential customers.
Rob Holmes 01:50
Now with revelation, in order to protect anything, you must be on the frontlines watching for infringers. Think of this process as similar to the patrol officers you see in your own neighbourhood. They watch for suspicious activity, record it and sometimes intervene. As a brand owner, you must monitor all avenues of commerce.
For this, I recommend one of the various tools available in this case Red Points, the sponsor of this webinar. Now that you are ready to explore the ecommerce sites, you can click through to their product catalogues and see that there infringements all over of your brand.
If there are, you’ll want to conduct analysis, preserve the data and call down the multitude of hits to a manageable group. Once that takes place, it’s important to database the Whois information, the contact information on the website, the IP addresses, and other data points.
Next, you use this data to determine if any of these websites are linked to subjects you’ve previously opened files on. In addition to ecommerce websites, there are many online marketplaces where counterfeiters also sell their goods.
These marketplaces include business-to-consumer websites, or you know, many of us in the industry call it B2C. Those websites include eBay, Amazon or Taobao. Business, a consumer marketplaces are the closest online example to the real-life swap meet. Vendors sell goods at virtual booths, while millions of consumers stroll down the aisle.
Similar to B2C marketplaces, there has been a new surge in the consumers use of the business-to-business marketplace or what we would call B2B. Originally, these websites were created with the intention to connect volume sellers to middlemen who sell goods to retailers. Since the birth of Alibaba, Etsy, and DHgate.
These marketplace websites have been optimised to attract not only wholesale customers, but normal search engine surfers as well. Over the last few years, using tools, brand owners have been doing a fairly good job patrolling the online marketplaces and reporting infringements.
As this happens, counterfeiters though, adapt to advertising techniques. They find the most effective ways to post on different places like social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Many sellers will set up their own branded accounts on these social networks and post images of goods for sale. A lot of times with the web address printed right on the image. This is the virtual equivalent of somebody walking up to you on a busy street approaching you with a ”hey buddy want to buy a watch, rolling up their sleeves and showing you all the watches?”
In the social media world, social media marketing, that’s called guerilla marketing. So To recap, the first step route revelation is comprised of having a team on the front lines, putting the data together so you can decide what actions to take.
Rob Holmes 05:09
The next step is notification. For those who appear to be first-time offenders, it is best to warn them to warn their ISP, the registrar, the payment processor, and the above-mentioned marketplaces, if that’s applicable.
This is a time for most who are not inclined to commit repeat crimes, and or possibly, some time, sometimes these guys don’t respond, they’ll try to mend their ways. But those folks you want to get get out in the first tier, this is a notification phase, it’s important to record all your leads in the database. Because you’re going to have to want to track exactly who you’ve notified. And whether they responded what the response was. And also, any other notes that may be necessary if they’re flagged in the future.
Rob Holmes 06:09
Now investigation, and that’s where a company like mine comes in. So you think about those first two steps as the police force, right or the army. So the investigation, that’s where the special forces come in.
So repeat offenders, already have been put on notice, and they continue infringing. They’ve continued infringing with new knowledge of your methods, and more importantly, they develop more sophisticated methods.
Those methods include better ways to detect their detectors coming. For this group of offenders, you must immediately acquire and preserve as much data as possible. This means an undercover purchase should be made immediately, and a first responder team sent into the virtual crime scene to obtain the evidence required for later action.
If not, most of this evidence will later be gone. I call this the empty crack house theory. You can see one of my articles on my website for that. Once the infringing goods are procured and deemed illegal, the subject must now be notified in person.
The most effective way to do this is via the knockin talk, where a local investigator, waits for the subject to come home and knocks on his door and speaks to them with a face-to-face interview, usually in a very civil and persuasive fashion. To make sure the individual knows their further actions will lead to escalation.
It’s important that much thought is put into implementing this step. A small case like this could turn into a publicity nightmare. If an inexperienced investigator handles this step. Remember that proper enforcement must result in an individual being personally held accountable for their actions.
Rob Holmes 07:46
Now the next step, I call this escalation obviously, because after you’ve done those first three steps, all this time, your revelation process is still being adhered to daily, still drumming up new leads, notifying potential one-timers, logging multiple offenders. career criminals have continued to offend after being put on notice twice, once in writing.
And once in person, you must now determine if civil or criminal action is most effective and efficient. Some folks will only respond to the fear of jail. These individuals should be arrested using your local investigator or local law enforcement.
Restitution is sometimes awarded in criminal cases and should be pursued if that’s applicable. If it appears that the subject may have assets that can be recovered, it’s recommended that you pursue civil action with your outside counsel. We’ve had a lot of success with this throughout the years partnering straight through the line with firms like Red Points, then us, then the outside counsel.
And this kind of thing really works is dynamic. This can be in the form of an address complaint, you know, and it’s crazy. I mean, we had one case recently where you know, the guy had a massive suit against him and made national news.
And when you see these and obviously if you guys look at my knockoff reports, you’ll see if you go to our website, IP cybercrime.com, And subscribe, you’ll actually see a lot of the hits that come from us and other investigators that that hold these people accountable.
When you see someone goes to jail. Someone has some sort of a judgment against them. It actually really does. Really does have a lot of weight, especially when they know your brand is the one that’s doing it.
Rob Holmes 09:38
Once this system has been implemented and used over a period, you’ll find it easier to maintain. From a corporate standpoint, your performance figures can be quantified by soft results in hard results. The soft numbers include brand equity and corporate profits.
In my opinion, those are the best numbers because those are the numbers. Obviously, they’re harder to count. But that is what we’re all in it for here. We’re all in it to see the client’s stock prices go up. Okay? If effective, you will have contributed to this number significantly.
The accessibility of counterfeit goods is a regular part of the public’s perception of your brand, as well as the dilution that your trademark suffers for being seen in authorised and unauthorised venues. Hard results begin with recording and comparing the amount of offenders found in the Revelation process.
In the beginning to perhaps one year later, once your brand enforcement efforts become more known among counterfeit sellers, as these numbers decline, your repeat offenders will decline to a steady number that’ll be expected and predicted on a regular basis.
As long as your brand has value. This number can stay at this manageable level only if the above process stays in place with the same amount of zeal and consistently as in the beginning or consistency, as in the beginning. Once your expected numbers are realised, it’s a lot easier to determine your quarterly performance.
The most important thing is to understand that you must not be disheartened that the problem does not completely go away. It never will look at the drug problem, look at prostitution, gambling, all kinds of crime break-ins, they don’t stop, you can just curtail them to a reasonable level, as long as you’re consistently following these steps.
As long as your brand has value, someone will imitate it. Most important thing is to keep in mind that earnest and consistent performance always works. Although they seem like pixels in a mysterious world. They’re still the same slick crooks that have existed since the invention of commerce. And they still respond to good old-fashioned discipline.
Conrado Lamas 12:12
I think like a week ago, Facebook actually reported the numbers that they have on counterfeiting entering a phase where it’s our experience here at Red Points as well as be there has been this transition from traditional and marketplaces to social media.
Do you have some overall suggestions to people or to IP lawyers that are facing this issue? And maybe they’re lacking some strategies? There are things that they should be doing in order to better cover those social media channels?
Rob Holmes 13:01
Well, I definitely think technology really is important. I mean, obviously, you need tools, but you also need people on the outside. One thing I find, excuse me, very disheartening is the sorry if there’s anyone from Facebook on here, but is the the the inability to report IP infringements on their by the individual user, there used to be.
Believe it or not, when you saw an ad for counterfeit jerseys or counterfeit Nike used to be able to click on the ad on the corner of the ad and report infringement. Now you click on the ad, you can report it, and then it’ll say learn more about infringements. So it takes a lot longer for the average citizen to report, which to me is a little strange.
Conrado Lamas 14:14
Now, you were mentioning about and very correctly, the things that only IP lawyers can do and one of the things that we deal with a lot when we are dealing with the technology side of brand protection, as we learn really quickly once you onboard a company like ours that how important… even for our company here, IP lawyers are I mean.
We are full of IP lawyers, of course, because we need those analysts taking care of what the technology finds and validates before taking action. So what is your feeling the like investigation part is something that clearly, IP lawyers are completely essential, I don’t think technology will substitute any other insight on that concern of human versus technology in the IP world.
Rob Holmes 15:27
Exactly. And that’s where I really like to enunciate the first two steps because that’s where technology comes in. It’s in the revelation notification points, obviously, the revelation, you have the technology scooping all the data, and, you know, calling down, you know, 10s of millions of hits, and duplicates, to something, you know, down to maybe 1000 hits or even less.
And we as an investigative firm, even the step before the IP counsel, in many cases, we rely on our clients using tools like that, because, you know, we don’t handle the mass quantity of hits, we handle those five or 10 hits that you guys deem the most, the most important, and that’s what we handle.
And after that, yep, the escalation process always has to be handled by the attorneys, because they know exactly what needs to be done in every single jurisdiction. You call your guy, we find out if the guy’s in Minnesota is the guy in, you know, is he in Fallujah, we don’t know.
Now, we just told you, this is where they are. Now your local council comes in and they can handle the situation escalated to the point where they know that they can actually get something done in that local jurisdiction.
Conrado Lamas 18:46
So Rob, what I wanted to talk about today is trying to make concrete or bring concrete examples of how technology can assist IP lawyers and brand protection managers in their job.
And as you said, technology, especially using the detection part validation as well. But we were able even to create some systems that assist sometimes even automatise depending on the platform that we are talking about.
The removal part as well is that in that part especially is where we the machine learning feature comes in not only that part but then on that part as well. And as you already know, machine learning is one of the ways of dealing with artificial intelligence in this in this case, in legal tech.
We created it, of course, the organisation liked it a lot as well, because nowadays, people are just throwing those terms out there without explaining what is artificial. Intelligent now. Okay, so I’m gonna be happy to tell you a gift show you on screen a couple of examples of how we apply machine learning. That is artificial intelligence to brand protection in our technology.
We like to call our tool, the all in one brand protection software because of that, because we were able to apply technology to almost every step of the process, which is assisting and it’s increasing the productivity of the IP lawyer, and the brand protection manager in their job.
In the end, our job is to provide people like you like Rob, like people in the audience, the right material for them, to take their productivity to the sky, and focus on what they do best. And whatever is repetitive and a technology can take better care for themselves.
That’s why we get in, I invite you guys to take a look at our website later, we have these excellent videos with our clients in which they’re saying the advantages of having a product like Red Points, and how they are able to protect their brands.
Now, there are some very, very interesting stories like Knockaround, there is one that I liked a lot, which is Food Huggers, they managed to release their product through crowdfunding through Kickstarter, and they realise that they have counterfeits even before the real release.
So we are super happy that we get to protect these brands and protect their reputation and even the consumers because as you know, better than I do. Their health is at stake with these counterfeits. These are some facts and figures to see how successful we are and some will be able to do a great job there and the brand enforcement and brand protection.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. Or if you have further questions in the future to Rob as well. Rob, I wanted to thank you so much for your presentation today. And for sharing your ideas with us.
Founder and CEO of IPCybercrime.com
Marketing & Communications Manager at Red Points