It’s never too early for small business owners to consider a brand protection strategy, let me tell you why.
Imagine going to a trade show, walking down the aisles to have a look at other exhibitors’ work, only to discover that another company is exhibiting the exact same products as you.
This is what happened to furniture designer and CEO David Trubridge, who first realised he had a counterfeit problem when he saw a company exhibiting a booth full of his lights at the 2014 Hong Kong Lighting Fair.
Throughout my career, as an investor and small business owner, I’ve witnessed first-hand countless horror stories of SMEs who, because of their relatively small size and scale, failed to protect their invention and got beaten to the punch by Chinese manufacturers.
In fact, one of our very own clients, Food Huggers, discovered counterfeits of their products during their Kickstarter campaign before they had even entered product development.
However, unless business owners start putting brand protection at the top of their agenda, counterfeiters will continue to exploit loopholes in the system to reap the benefits of other people’s inventions. Here are some very first steps to consider before embarking on your product development journey:
Protect your product before sharing it
As tempting as it sounds to share your product on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to raise funds, until you have registered your intellectual property, hold off.
This will save you from exposing yourself to unnecessary early online counterfeit threats.
First things first, register your names and logos as trademarks and consider protecting your products with design and utility patents. When putting together your online brand protection strategy, consider all the countries where you intend to market your products, as some regions such as China, Turkey and Southeast Asia face a higher rate of counterfeit issues.
Securing your intellectual property can be costly, but it is a necessary investment should you need to fight counterfeits, both online and offline in the future.
Get help from third-party partners
Given the speed at which online counterfeits spread online, dealing with copycats manually will quickly feel like fighting a losing battle. Enlisting the help of third-party partners that can automate counterfeit listing removals can both help speed up enforcement procedures in a cost-effective manner, and free up staff’s time to work on other tasks.
When brand protection is automated, on average it can take as little as 4.5 hours from detection of infringing content to takedown – a process that typically takes days or weeks when done manually.
Build a unique brand
The most important aspect of brand building and management is making sure your brand is truly unique so that your customers can become your advocates, and don’t mind paying extra to get their hand on the original version of your product.
A good example of a company that has successfully achieved this is Apple. Despite the countless fakes available online, most fans would prefer buying the real deal, rather than a knock-off. Ultimately, customer loyalty is one of the most powerful ways to truly address the counterfeit issue.
Invest in brand protection now – and thank me later
Investing real time and effort into building a solid brand protection strategy early on can go a long way in mitigating the impact of online counterfeiting on your business. With the counterfeits market now worth $460bn and accounting for almost 5% of all goods imported to the EU, virtually no industry is safe.
So don’t wait for it to happen to you before fighting back. Red Points is offering a free webinar to give you and your business a head start on how to preserve your creativity against online counterfeits – so don’t miss out.
Laura Urquizu is the partner and CEO of Red Points, a smart brand protection company. She has over twenty years’ experience in consulting, and under her leadership, the company has built up an impressive portfolio of technological products and secured two major rounds of funding in the past 3 years.
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