Social media sites such as Facebook, Sina Weibo and WeChat are like honey to bees for fraudsters and counterfeiters. In order to track down illicit activity, we scan all major platforms around the world. But it doesn’t end there. In the battle against brand infringement, our sophisticated tools shine a spotlight on the ‘dark corners’ of the market too.
An effective platform for crime
With over two billion people – more than 25% of the earth’s population – having at least one social media account, it is not surprising that brand infringements in this space are soaring. According to one recent study, some 20% of posts about top fashion brands feature illicit products. And the sellers are operating in the wide open, posting a wide range of ads and images in the hope of attracting unwitting customers. Essentially, popular social media platforms are being used as giant amplifiers to attract ever more buyers.
Crooks and scammers appropriate legitimate trademarks in a number of ways. These include modifying logos to pass them off as their own, using logos and trademarks in their advertising without authorisation and registering account names that incorporate trademarks. And while the usual enforcement techniques can be difficult – given that the identity of the perpetrator is either unclear or unknown – social media companies, eager to protect their reputations, are fighting back.
Putting pressure on criminals
Many social media platforms have developed procedures for brand owners to report trademark infringement violations and will remove infringing content after finding a violation of their terms of service. Some sites, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to name three, have even developed online forms for their reporting process. Factors that indicate a violation of intellectual property rights include evidence of impersonation, bad faith or use of a social media account in a way that approaches commercialization. Evidence found in comments and misdirected hashtags may also help establish a case of trademark infringement.