The Internet has provided a great environment for entrepreneurs to come up with creative products and services and ways to market them online. However, it has also led to many instances of intentional and unintentional trademark infringements.
For years luxury brands complained that online marketplaces like eBay did not do enough to stop the sales of fake and counterfeit products. It is quite difficult to distinguish an authentic from fake when looking at a picture on a site and also a challenge to track its source. The jewelry brand Tiffany’s reported that over 73% of products purported to be theirs sold on eBay was counterfeited, and that this has caused the company damage to its sales, reputation and brand equity. Add to that the cost that the brands spends policing the market places by themselves and going after the sellers in the courts.
You might think that bigger companies are the only ones not safe when it comes to their trademarks. But every online business entrepreneur must be aware of it. For example, if you are creating a new product, you might end up giving your product a similar name, color, or slogan to someone else’s product. Whether you are just a small mom-and-pop shop, or a growing e-commerce business, you must be able to protect your name and seal in your customers’ trust.
Here are some things you might want to know about trademarks:
- The first to file gets the trademark
In most countries, like for example Taiwan, the golden rule of trademarks is “first to file ” not the “first to use”. With this rule, even you are the one that uses the trademark first, you are not protected by the Taiwan trademark law. You need to apply for trademark protection with the government. If you do not do this and someone intentionally or unintentionally copy your trademark, there is nothing you can do stop them. Also, you need to register in every country where you want to sell your products.
- Make sure you are not using someones else’s trademark
Before deciding on a name for your company or product, run a trademark search to check that there are no similar marks already being used in your industry.
If you will sell or manufacture someone else’s products, make sure you have the rights to display the brands and the sales materials you need for the site like pictures, videos and text.
- Try a distinctive trademark
You of course want a trademark that is hard to copy. Once you successfully registered your trademark you must be aware to archive some instances of using it, like some samples of the mark being used in print and online advertisements. In many jurisdictions, if a mark is not used for 3 years, another person or company can ask for the legal protection to be stripped. So these examples could come in hand if there is ever a legal case. Plus maybe it is fun to remember what you have done, right?