What you Need to Know about Protecting your Brand Online

What you Need to Know about Protecting your Brand Online

The Good and the Bad of Doing Business on the Internet

In today’s world Internet provides a flexible platform of virtually unlimited possibilities for expanding your business online, eg easy access to foreign markets, cheap advertising and cheap setup (compared to establishing and promoting an offline business from scratch).
The online world is less strictly regulated than the offline world and unfortunately, its flexibility and anonymity are often abused by cybercriminals. Even though cyberattacks tend to increase annually, 2015 exceeded projected numbers resulting in heavy multi-billion losses. Currently, the cost of global cybercrime is estimated at $100 billion.
You can learn more on the current state of cybercrime at <What Cybercrime is>.

The Ugly of Doing Business on the Internet

Your domain name is key to building your unique business identity online — the brand name that consumers will seek and trust. However, this valuable business asset may come under attack in a number of ways: cybersquatting, lookalike domains selling counterfeit goods or being abused in phishing scams, social media/mobile app infringement, content infringement etc. Let’s take a closer look:

Cybersquatting. Cybersquatting refers to the illegal practice of registering or trafficking in a domain name in order to profit from the trademark of someone else. The cybersquatter may even try to sell you that domain at an inflated price. Instances of counterfeit e-commerce where perpetrators use cybersquatted domains are not rare. Consumers are directed to fake websites selling counterfeit products.
Lookalike domains selling counterfeit goods. In these cases, domain names that contain typos of your brand name or have hyphens, prefixes or suffixes added to them are used to trick unaware consumers to go to websites selling fakes. This not only diverts internet traffic and customer visits, but also contributes to real losses and may as well lead to consumer dissatisfaction or bad company reputation in the long run.
Phishing scams. Phishing scams have been increasingly used as part of bigger targeted attacks aimed at stealing sensitive data or extortion. It is often through an unsolicited email that users are tricked to click on a familiar-looking link with your brand in the domain name that takes them to a phishing website instead.
Social media/mobile app infringement. Your trademarks are used without authorization on social media platforms or mobile applications.
Content infringement. It refers to infringing on your trademarks or copyrighted content on a website. The purpose is to trick consumers that perpetrators are affiliated or authorized by you so that they go on to that fraudulent website instead of yours.

What Can you Do to Protect your Brand?

There are a number of prevention measures with appropriate tools you can employ to minimize the risk of infringement on your brand online:

– Of course, the very first step is to protect your brand name with a trademark in your key markets. Consult an IP (Intellectual Property) attorney if needed.
Register your domains. The important thing to do when you launch online is to do research and consider in which domain extensions it is worth registering your brand domain names. If you don’t do it, it is highly likely that someone outside your company will. Therefore, plan ahead: register domains not only in .com or your own national extension, but also in extensions that are popular or big potential markets for you, in new extensions, or domains with common typos or hyphens in your brand or domain names with your well-known products. Typo domains are very often used by cybercriminals.
This is a generally cheap move that can save you a lot of cost and trouble later in case you find out that your domain in your next market is already taken. This was the case with Ebay in France where they had to buy their brand domain under .fr from a competitor for $100 mln.
Read more on registering domain names at:
<What you Should Know before Registering your Domain>, <How to Choose your Ideal Domain Name?> and <How to Choose the Right Domain Name Registrar for you?>.
Register on social media. Make sure that you reserve a profile with your brand on big social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. You wouldn’t want someone else to create profiles with your brand for own profit, negative content, etc.
Do preliminary research to check if someone is already infringing on your brand domains. However, this may not be enough. For example, cybersquatters may be quietly sitting on a handful of parked domains with your brand so consider the next tip.
Take a proactive approach, especially if your brand is well-established or growing very rapidly. Consider brand protection services that include trademark monitoring of registered domains so if there are domains using your brand or looking like your brand, you can find out who owns them and take legal action if necessary. Domain ownership changes easily so you might want to do regular Whois checks.
Lookups such as reverse Whois or reverse IP can be very useful in cases when a trademark infringement has already been detected. They can reveal all domains sharing the same details in a Whois record or the same IP address to find other infringements committed by the same perpetrator.
Domain companies such as <tool.domains> provide trademark monitoring services.
Be prepared. If you suspect infringement, you need evidence so it is useful to take screen shots of suspicious websites, their Whois records, etc. The easiest thing to do then is to contact the domain registrar which can take immediate action if the domain owner is in breach of their terms and conditions which cover criminal activity.

Summing it All Up

It is true that cybercrime also benefits from the development of new technologies, but this is unlikely to hinder businesses from making use of the market opportunities that the world wide web offers them. With a reasonable risk assessment and respective prevention measures, all should be well in the world of online business.