Register your IP rights
Make sure to register IP rights, so they are easier to enforce! Read more here.
It is also a good idea to consider, if you need to register relevant domain names.
Use special identifying marks on the products or their packaging
Many counterfeit and pirated products look almost identical to the genuine product and it can be difficult for even the manufacturer of the original product to determine if a product is genuine or fake. You can face this challenge by inserting secret identifying elements into your product that make it easier for your business to distinguish the genuine product from counterfeit and pirated products. The secret element can be a piece of colored thread sewn into the collar, label or other hidden places on a jacket, a spelling mistake in the product guide or another hidden mark on the product. By inserting several hidden elements into your products, you make it difficult for the infringers to find and copy all of them.
If your business receives a complaint about one of your products, you can ask the complainant to look for the hidden elements. If the consumer does not find the hidden elements, you can inform the consumer that the product is fake. This could minimize bad user reviews on the internet and other bad mention of the product by consumers. At the same time, you can encourage the consumer to purchase the genuine product.
Another option is to insert small chips in the product, which make it possible to trace the product’s path to the consumer and make it easier to identify original products from fakes. You can also use a combination of holograms, barcodes and two- or three-dimensional labels on the packaging.
Monitor the market for counterfeit and pirated products
Counterfeit and pirated products are often sold through the internet. Therefore, it is a good idea to monitor the internet for sale of such products. You can either assign one or more employees from your company to this task or you can obtain assistance from external providers. Whichever method you choose, it is a good idea to have routines that ensure a frequent and consistent search for copies of your products.
Outsourcing and subcontractors
If you choose to place your production in another country, it is a good idea to initially examine the subcontractors you want to cooperate with. Try to obtain as much knowledge about future subcontractors as possible, ask other businesses about their experience with the subcontractor or investigate whether the subcontractor has previously been involved in cases of counterfeiting and piracy or abuse of business secrets.
It can also be a good idea to enter into written cooperation agreements with subcontractors with legally binding secrecy clauses and clarification of ownership of IP rights. The cooperation agreements can include specific requirements for the suppliers and / or producers to cover any loss if a product turns out to be fake. Such precautions will put you in a better position in case of disputes.
It can also be a good idea to spread your business’ production to several locations - maybe even in several countries - and to assemble the final product at a location with increased security. By doing so, you make it more difficult for infringers to replicate your company’s production process. Also monitor subcontractors and the entire chain of commerce on a continuous basis.
Protect your trade secrets
Much of the knowledge that makes your business unique helps to make it difficult for others to illegally copy your products. Therefore, it is important to protect this knowledge, also known as trade secrets. This can be done by describing how employees in your business should handle important knowledge, by describing who should have access to what knowledge, and by describing the handling of trade secrets as an element in employment contracts and other relevant documents.
You should also be aware that trade secrets - including technological knowledge as well as customer information and market analysis - can be leaked. This can for example happen via (former) employees and (potential) collaborators. Therefore, it is advisable to limit the number of employees and collaborators who have access to your trade secrets as much as possible.
It is also important to be aware of what product information your business provides in marketing material and on the Internet, as such information can be used as a template for production of counterfeit and pirated products. Freely available information about your products makes counterfeiting and piracy easier for infringers.
Create a product library
It is advisable to keep a complete product archive of your business’ marketing materials and products, including products that are no longer in production. In case an infringement occurs, it is beneficial to be able to document what products your business has produced.
Application for actions to the customs authorities
Consider submitting an application for action to the customs authorities, so they can look for illegal copies of your products and detain these products if they are found. The service is free of charge in the EU. Read more here.
Dialogue with consumers
It can be a good idea to encourage customers / consumers to inform you if they discover illegal copies of your products, possibly through a specific email address where customers / consumers can inform you directly. You can also warn customers/ consumers about dangerous and illegal copies of your products.
In addition, you can provide clear information to your (potential) customers on how to avoid buying fake copies of your products.
Are you aware of the possibility to buy IPR insurance? IPR insurances can, for example, cover your business’ costs to enforce your own IP rights against infringers. You can read more about IPR insurance here (in Danish) on website of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office.
Develop a strategy
Read more here.
Learn how the small business “Bulbul” successfully fought counterfeiting.
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