The rapidly evolving world of social media and a constantly growing online marketplace have made it more challenging than ever for business owners to monitor and react to potential instances of trademark infringement.
However, failing to be vigilant about policing unauthorized usage of trademarked material may result in damage to both the strength of a company’s intellectual property rights and the integrity of its reputation.
What types of infringement occur online?
Online examples of potential trademark infringement may include:
- Using an identical or very similar mark in promotional or advertising content
- Incorporating a trademark in a social media handle, hashtag or domain name
- Selling infringing or counterfeit products on either a direct site or counterfeit site
- Impersonating a company’s website, social media pages or personnel
How might infringement impact IP rights?
Generally, a company may only be able to claim infringement if the unauthorized use of a trademark is likely to cause customer confusion. If a business does not actively work to protect trademarked assets, it may run the risk of diluting its claim to ownership due to prevalent third-party usage.
How can businesses prevent risk of online infringement?
While the U.S. offers some protection for unregistered marks under common law, registering trademarks and other proprietary material is important for ensuring the brand retains a strong claim.
Given the sheer breadth of the issue, it is unlikely that a business will be able to stop every case of online infringement. However, brand owners may be able to minimize risk by actively safeguarding IP assets that are especially valuable and likely to attract imitation, duplication and/or wide publicity.