The rise of e-commerce is making shopping and selling online easier, faster and more accessible. Since creating online selling platforms is easier, intellectual property (IP) infringements are also becoming increasingly commonplace. However, working out how to protect your brand in e-commerce environments is only becoming more difficult. 

As e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba develop and expand globally, protecting IP is becoming the role of both the IP owner and the e-commerce operators. This article sets out some ways to ensure you can look after your IP and stop copycats from knocking off your products and branding.

1. Search for Existing IP

A quick search easily checks if you might be infringing on someone else’s IP, or if someone else is potentially infringing on your IP. Take the time to carry out thorough searches across internet platforms, social media, and trade mark and patents databases to find similar products, services, brand names and logos to yours.

In the case of inventions, be sure to check the bottom of a website for whether a similar invention to yours has a ‘patent pending’ designation.  You can also access the trade marks and patents register of a particular country.

These basic searches are a good way of discovering whether there are existing registrations of which you should be aware.

Lawyers can also conduct comprehensive clearance IP searches and provide reports on their findings. This option is more efficient for the IP owner.

2. Apply to Register your IP Rights

If your search results are positive, consider registering your own intellectual property rights in your country. You should also consider any country where you intend on selling your product or services in the future. Registered rights are an important way to protect your brand in e-commerce.

Trade Marks

If your trade mark application is successful, your mark will be registered for 10 years. This will provide you with exclusive ownership of a particular name, logo, tagline or aspect of packaging. It provides a legal avenue to protect your brand. Having the exclusive rights to a trade mark also means that you can leverage the asset by licensing or selling it in the future.

Patents

A standard patent can protect your invention for 20 years, and an innovation patent can protect it for 8 years.

Designs

Design registration will protect the way your product looks for five years.

It is important for any business to set aside some money to protect its IP. This will ensure you can sell internationally without breaching another brand’s IP rights. Therefore, in the long run, the value added to your business with IP registration outweighs the upfront costs.

3. Monitor Your IP Rights

Once you have registered your IP rights in the countries of your choice, regularly monitor the internet for copycats and infringers. This can include checking e-commerce and social media platforms for knock-offs.

If someone else is using your IP without your permission, it is far easier to enforce your rights if you have registered rights in that country.  In addition to monitoring the internet for infringement, you can also search the patents, trade mark and design registers and journals in each country. This could reveal pending applications for similar IP rights that concern you, giving you a chance to oppose them.

It is important to speak to a lawyer if you believe someone is infringing on your IP rights; you may need to take legal action.

4. Report Infringement with the E-Commerce Platform

New developments in e-commerce regulations are looking to the e-commerce operators to help stop IP infringements. Even in China, e-commerce operators must take initiative to prevent IP infringement. Many e-commerce platforms encourage users to report infringements of copyright, design and trade marks. However, they often require you to first demonstrate that you are the owner of IP rights (such as showing your registered trade mark) and that you enrol your brand with their online registries.

Owners can report the infringement to e-commerce operators, usually through their own complaints and disputes mechanisms. The platform can then shut down infringing sellers. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the requirements of your e-commerce provider to understand what you need to do if your brand is copied by another.

It is also a good idea to check the e-commerce platform for registered brands to ensure your brand does not infringe another company’s IP rights. If you do not do this, you run the risk of the platform shutting your page down for infringement.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, there are a number of steps involved to successfully protect your brand in e-commerce. Successfully selling your goods and services online is a two-way street. You need to make sure you are not infringing another business’ IP and you must carefully monitor your own rights.

Searching for existing IP rights is the first step to ensuring you can register your own. Make sure that you prioritise your IP by registering your rights in the countries strategic to your brand. This will also allow you to effectively use the reporting mechanisms available on many e-commerce platforms.

If you need help protecting your brand on e-commerce platforms, contact LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers today on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Elodie Somerville
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