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How to protect your brand in the online marketplace

With online shopping increasing its share of consumer spending in the retail market there will be people actively looking for ways to use your brand to divert customers to their own websites.

Nick Fenner, a brand protection specialist at national law firm TLT, outlines five dangers that brand owners should be aware of and how they can protect their brand online.

1. Copycat websites

The problem: Increasingly sophisticated copies of established websites are popping up overnight, often with ability to take payment for non-existent goods.

Advice: Brand owners should actively monitor the use of their brand online. As the operators of these copycat websites are usually hard to identify, the IT company hosting the website should be required to remove or block access to the site. Where fraudsters have incorporated a trade mark as part of a web address to add credibility there is a procedure available to have the domain name transferred.

2. Fake goods offered through auction sites

The problem: Sub-standard fake goods are being sold at a discount rate through auction sites like eBay, which diverts sales from legitimate brand sellers and undermines the reputation of the brand.

Advice: Brand owners should register with eBay’s Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Programme so they can report listings that infringe on their rights. Active monitoring and follow up is required as eBay, like other auction sites, will not take action except in response to a specific complaint from the verified brand owner.

3) Competitors bidding on your brand as a key word search term

The problem: Currently Google’s policy does not prohibit competitors bidding on your brand as a key word search term. As a consequence their paid for advertisement can appear prominently on your search results page.

Advice: Brand owners should monitor the paid for advertisements to see whether the content confuses consumers in such a way that it would fall foul of the court’s recent guidance.

4) Misuse of Social Media 

The problem: There is an increased incidence of Twitter, Facebook and other social media users publishing misleading content that includes links to competitor or fraudulent sites, which appears to be from or authorised by the verified brand owner.

Advice: Each social media site will have its own trade mark violation policy, which allows brand owners to register complaints to have infringing content removed and in some cases have accounts barred.

5) Misleading banner advertising

The problem: Competitors may make derogatory references to your brand in targeted banner advertisements in the mistaken belief that the usual rules do not apply to online advertising.

Advice: If a direct approach to the competitor does not work, a formal complaint can be filed with the Advertising Standard Authority whose remit extends to online advertising.

For more information please contact Nick Fenner, on 020 3465 4232 / Nick.Fenner@TLT Visit

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