By Jon Groza
You’ve spent years perfecting your products, cultivating trusted suppliers overseas, and establishing your supply chain. You’ve invested thoughtfully in marketing and taken steps to build your brand in the global, e-commerce marketplace. Perhaps you have even contracted and partnered with authorized resellers to help deliver your products to consumers worldwide. Sound familiar?
Despite your tireless efforts and investment, your profit margins keep shrinking and you are beginning to field complaints from dissatisfied consumers who have purchased similar – but materially different – goods from unauthorized resellers on-line. Your authorized resellers are getting upset and wondering what you intend to do about it. Still sound familiar?
You want to take proactive measures to not only protect margins but to satisfy your authorized resellers. You want to ensure all consumers of your genuine products that they are able to benefit from the warranties, customer service and quality controls they expect and deserve. So how do you continue to engage and invest in e-commerce, stay relevant and compete? How do you avoid a race to the bottom? It’s not too late. In fact, the time is now to step back and begin implementing a few basic strategies to lay the foundation for actionable and effective brand enforcement.
- Register Copyrights and Trademarks – It is far easier to enforce your rights to valuable intellectual property if you make the relatively modest investment in registering your copyrights and trademarks. In fact, the Supreme Court recently held that copyrights must be registered before a claim for infringement may be brought in federal court. Registration is more than a legal formality. For companies engaging in e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, registration can protect their proprietary images and marks from being exploited by unauthorized resellers who seek to establish a parasitical association with your brand. First register, then enforce.
- Make Certain Your Images Are in Fact Your Own – It is extremely common for U.S. companies who manufacture overseas to enlist independent contractors to take photographs of their products for use in catalogs and on e-commerce platforms. However, if the photographer taking the images in not a company employee, the images are likely the work product and property of the independent photographer. While this might seem like a technicality, it is essential to transfer the rights to those images from the photographer to the company before registering copyrights and taking action to enforce your rights in a court of law. A simple contract can make this process seamless and take the issue of ownership off the table immediately.
- Create and/or Reevaluate MAP Policies, Warranties and Reseller Agreements – Internet Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies restrict distributors from advertising a manufacturer’s products online below a price set by the manufacturer. Contracting with authorized distributors or resellers allows manufacturers to enlist partners to help bring their products to the vast on-line marketplace. However, these contracts must be carefully crafted in order to ensure that customers receive genuine products, quality controls, enforceable warranties and ongoing customer service and support. It is critical that your MAP policy, warranties and reseller agreements are working in sync and complement each other.
KJK’s Brand Enforcement Group can help your business implement each of these foundational elements. The return on our clients’ investment is tangible and realized through enforceable intellectual property rights, satisfied resellers, happy customers and higher margins. Once your infrastructure is in place, true brand enforcement can become a reality. Your products are distinct and valuable – they deserve a heightened level of protection.
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