Marketplaces: The Evolving Landscape – Part 2 of 2

In the second of two blog postings on marketplaces, Nancy reviews examines emerging  trends, enforcement actions and best practices.

Emerging Trends

Mobile-only marketplaces are among the most exciting emerging trends in global eCommerce. Mercari is a Japanese start-up with 32 million downloads, 7 million from the U.S. Brand owners need to understand what happens when people shop via their mobile device. Consumers can snap a photo of an item they want to sell, post a listing and rate buyers and sellers.

Social media chat apps include What’s App which has over a billion users. Direct marketing organizations are using these chat apps to target the ever-mobile” user. Brands should be aware that fraudsters can reach consumers directly via these chat apps.

Industry and location targeting enables the targeting of people by industry or by popularity of a brand in a certain location to drive sales.

The Deep Web/Dark Web is an emerging threat that companies should be aware of. The Dark Web is an unindexed and anonymous part of the Internet which is not accessible via standard browsers or search engines. The anonymity of the Dark Web gives fraudsters a cover to sell counterfeit goods.

Many brands find it challenging to monitor and enforce on the Dark Web. Enforcement is difficult due to anonymity. However consumers looking for infringing products need to overcome barriers such as downloading the Tor browser. This means the general availability of eCommerce on the Dark Web is currently limited. We advise that it shouldn’t be ignored.

Enforcement Options and Best Practices

Brands have a number of options to consider when enforcing their IP rights and brand protection in light of these emerging trends and predicted growth in online marketplaces.

While legacy marketplaces such as Alibaba and Amazon have established enforcement options brands need to be aware of alternatives. These alternatives include lists of prohibited items specific terms and conditions and finally keeping up with special programs that marketplaces deploy.

Lists of prohibited items on marketplaces are unique by country or locale. These offer ways detect violations that enable a brand to report and enforce. Examples found on such lists include expired products products with tampered seals and rules around the reselling and use of coupons. Look for lists on marketplace websites and expect some countries will give more options than others.

Also look for Terms and Conditions from payment processors which provide a way to submit notice of a violation.

Special Programs provide brands opportunities to make the enforcement process more efficient and effective. Most of these programs require nothing other than outreach to set up. Usually there are no fees involved.

Current examples of special programs include the iOffer C.O.P.S. (Counter Online Piracy System) Program which allows verified Copyright or Trademark owners to remove infringing items. C.O.P.S. members can suspend accounts for these violations. Brands must proactively apply to become a member.

Alibaba has been in the news recently by extending the established Good-Faith Takedown program with the Intellectual Property Joint-Force program.  This is aimed at streamlining the takedown process available to brands in the fight against counterfeits. The IP Joint-Force System will give participating brands a dedicated online portal and account manager to better facilitate the removal of counterfeits from Alibaba sites   Taobao Marketplace and The portal will allow brands to confirm potential IP violations found by Alibaba as part of its regular monitoring efforts after which the company will remove the offending products.

There’s currently limited availability for membership in the Joint-Force program. Alibaba announced that the system will be available to all members of the Good-Faith Takedown Program.

Industry Associations often have special relationships with marketplaces that can be leveraged  to increase compliance.

Best Practices

Brands should research what other names their products might be known by in the local languages in emerging markets where many Trademark terms and symbols are totally different. Investigate the iterations of these Trademarks and so you can enforce appropriately. Region specific representation is important in order to navigate the nuances of different cultures.   Finally take the time to investigate your investigators and only use on-the-ground investigators with a good reputation and referrals.

Allocate resources and focus on areas where online infringements is having the most impact. Research each platform thoroughly to identify value-add programs and options and find alternative ways to remove infringements. Leverage the relationships that you have with Service Providers or marketplaces directly with the goal of establishing a collaborative approach. Enforce early and often to address the problem before it gets too big. Be a guinea pig! Volunteer to beta-test new platforms and processes to enjoy the benefits of new programs marketplaces introduce that will make your brand a hard target.

To access a recording of a recent webinar where this topic is discussed in more detail click here.