How to stay ahead of evolving counterfeiter behavior

  • Brand Protection
How to stay ahead of evolving counterfeiter behavior

Counterfeiters and infringers continue to exploit new technology and changes in consumer behavior. They react swiftly to enforcement efforts, utilize emerging platforms, and operate agile global networks.

Businesses need to stay one step ahead of infringer behavior to stop criminal activity in its tracks. By predicting infringer behavior, emerging threats can be stemmed before putting consumers, brands, and revenues at risk.

We detail many of the latest tactics being employed by infringers, set out how you can adapt to stop them at scale, and discuss why having a geographical focus is critical. Finally, we indicate how Brand Protection technology and expertise are critical to outwitting online infringers.

Part 1: The latest methods infringers adopt to try and avoid detection

As businesses have become accustomed to the digital environment and have embraced e-commerce platforms, they have become effective at enforcing against infringers who do not hide their digital footprint.

However, the most cunning infringers are adept at finding ways to avoid detection.

Use of brand imagery

Infringers now use images from official promotional materials such as brand owner’s websites, YouTube advertisements, and Facebook business pages without explicitly mentioning the brand name within the listing or social post text. This way, they avoid keyword detection employed by many businesses and Brand Protection vendors.

This means many businesses rely on manual trawling of platforms such as marketplaces and social media to discover these infringements, affecting productivity levels and lowering the overall impact of remedial action taken.

Carefully selected keywords

Infringers will also use generic titles within listings so the brand name cannot be detected easily using keyword searches and will not show in the URL. They will try to keep brand owners on their toes and avoid detection by regularly making wholesale changes to listing descriptions and swapping out keywords.

Infringers harness marketplace weaknesses

Fake or otherwise infringing products are commonly listed at weekends, where businesses usually allocate little detection and enforcement resource to stop them. Platforms’ own enforcement teams often do not work weekends or are significantly scaled back meaning any notices sent will see a delay in response.

On large e-commerce platforms, infringers will look to hijack legitimate listings to divert traffic. On Amazon, for example, infringers list their products under legitimate ASINs at relatively low prices compared to the retail price. Amazon’s algorithms will favor this product, placing it within the much-coveted ‘buy-box’ at the top of the page – highly visible to consumers.

Up to 82% of Amazon sales are through the buy box[1] – if they are hijacked, this can represent a significant loss in revenue.

Other tactics employed

Infringers also create new brand names for lookalike products and often claim to hold trademark certificates in an attempt to solidify their presence and legitimacy.

Hacked URLs that redirect consumers to counterfeit storefronts are also common. Recent Corsearch research reveals that one infringer network deploying this tactic has accrued set over 180,000 hacked URLs to redirect to its storefront.

Part 2: How infringers operate as networks, and how to stop them at scale

Often, the biggest threats are well-organized infringer networks that infiltrate consumer touchpoints across countless territories and online channels, hijacking brands and diverting significant revenue.

Agile infringer networks evolve very rapidly to counteract enforcement efforts and are adept in shrugging off ad-hoc takedowns. Bad actors are quick to react to channels that are closed down – promotion efforts are pivoted with a different set of social media accounts and seller profiles, and the infringement activity continues. These social posts and listings are often unified under the operators’ ‘brand name’. This brand name is also connected to their own e-commerce sites that promote infringing goods.

To build an accurate and complete view of a global network, businesses need to monitor and connect infringers’ digital activity. Infringer networks leave a large data footprint that can be detected and dismantled with a sophisticated technology solution.

Technology needs to be able to detect similar activity and relationships to expose the network’s scale and predict future behavior. The key to staying ahead of infringers is being able to predict their next moves and stop emerging threats.

Finally, businesses require the capability to prioritize these networks and other infringements. Not all threats are the same and action should be targeted towards where it can cause the greatest impact and ROI.

Part 3: Why brands need to broaden their focus across geographies

Although infringement is a global problem for businesses, brand owners often see local differences which are often connected to consumer buying behaviors and the types of platforms that are prevalent.

Sellers have an extensive reach to various platforms across different territories. Businesses may prioritize ‘tier-1’ platforms and international heavyweights such as Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. However, it is important not to overlook the volume and severity of infringements on territory-based platforms such as Shopee and Lazada which can spill out into other regions.

Parallel import and grey market goods can often go under the radar on these platforms, particularly where they offer the ability for international consumers to purchase the products.

Beyond enforcement and regulatory requirements, global infringement monitoring also allows businesses to identify where there may be untapped appetite for their brands and products. They can use this data to aid market-entry and qualify licensing opportunities.

Part 4: Brand Protection technology and expertise are critical

As touched on throughout the piece, core to your success in eliminating infringement at scale is sophisticated Brand Protection technology and matching expertise.

Infringers have evolved their behavior in an attempt to avoid detection; we have built advanced features into Corsearch’s brand protection technology to ensure we discover, prioritize, and act against these threats across platforms and at scale.

Optical character recognition

We supplement our advanced keyword searching technology with optical character recognition to discover all infringements and prioritize by the threat they pose.

Our optical character recognition (OCR) technology allows Corsearch’s brand protection technology to discover and collect text that has been embedded in images to avoid keyword detection.

Similarity matching

Infringers create lookalike products that avoid abusing trademarks or copyright imagery in attempt to avoid detection. Corsearch’s brand protection technology similar matching capability is able to identify and match these lookalike products based on an extensive brand image library. ​

Network analysis

To identify high-value targets, Corsearch’s brand protection technology capability connects networks of bad actors together and prioritizes them based on the threat posed to a brand. By scanning global, local, existing and emerging data sources, including e-commerce websites, social media profiles and marketplace listings, and matching key identifying information such as item location, seller premises, telephone numbers and email addresses.

We expose the network’s scale and predict future behavior. By training our technology using machine learning to detect similar activity, we stay ahead of infringers and stop new threats emerging.

Network Analysis allows brand owners to identify whole networks and take down the perpetrators that sit at the heart of operations, rather than peripheral take downs.

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