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Pinterest, a new marketplace for fakes

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Six months after launching its first range of business accounts (in October 2012), successful social media site Pinterest is becoming a new marketplace for fakes, warns leading firm of patent and trade mark attorneys Withers & Rogers.

You’ll remember Pinterest: a worldwide phenomenon, one of the fastest-growing social media networks in the world. The platform was founded in 2010 and now has approximately 30m unique users. It is a social scrapbook site, which allows users to set up a pin board account and pin images they would like to share with others.

Now, here’s the problem: sometimes this may involve pinning copyrighted material and “pinners” rarely seek the photographer’s permission.

Copyright infringement is not the only risk for brand owners. Closer examination of pinners’s practices has revealed that the increasing number of corporates using Pinterest over the past six months has opened up an opportunity for companies selling fake goods. By setting up their own pinboard account, such companies are able to showcase their wares, alongside logos and other visual references, which may have been lifted from the site of the genuine brand owner, and attract consumers back to their e-commerce sites.

In doing so, if Pinterest account holders search for a specific brand of designer goods by name, instead of just finding the brand owner’s site, they would also be likely to find sites displaying the cheaper alternatives.

Fiona McBride, partner and trade mark attorney at Withers & Rogers, said: “Pinterest is aware of the potential for trade mark and copyright infringement and the site has recently introduced new policies which allow a brand owner to identify itself as the holder of the intellectual property rights and to ask for accounts to be blocked where appropriate. However, the onus is on the brand owner to ‘police’ the site and to take action where it finds evidence of brand misuse. How to copyright a logo UK

“There is also a ‘no-pinning’ service, which allows companies present on the site to opt out by blocking their own content so it cannot be repinned elsewhere.”

According to Withers & Rogers, it is not clear how many companies are making use of these services and the potential for trade mark infringement is considerable.

Said McBride: “A simple search on the site for almost any designer goods brand will reveal multiple listings for pinners’ sites which may or may not be linked to their own e-commerce site and this has created a new online marketplace for fakes.”

Trade mark infringement is only happening if the third party site is offering products for sale, and where there is potential to mislead users into thinking they are buying something from the genuine brand owner when they are not. For an infringement action in Pinterest, the brand owner would have to demonstrate that the third party’s pinboard was linked back to an e-commerce site where the imitation goods were available for sale.

“Failing to take action to prevent this kind of brand infringement could have serious repercussions for the brand owner in the long run – damaging their reputation and building an association in the mind of the consumer with goods of lower quality.”

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