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Trademark Power on Third-Party Platforms

January 17, 2015 Blogs

Sales through and similar platforms are very important for many businesses.  But, these platforms also come with their own unique, competitive environments where tricky competitors can poach a business’s sales in many different ways.  For example, they can appropriate existing listings and convey counterfeit products.  They can use identical or similar brand names.  They can even supply inferior products which then become associated with their target. 

These games are unlawful as unfair competition and/or trademark infringement.  They negatively impact not just legitimate sellers and their customers, but also platforms.  Specifically, infringers generate poor buyer experiences, bad debt from customer claims, and chargebacks.  They also threaten the platform’s reputation and brand.  Moreover, platforms face legal risk in the form of contributory trademark infringement liability if they continue to supply services to known infringers. 

Yet, platforms can be frustratingly passive or slow in noticing and taking action against wrongful activity.  Significantly, companies can beat unfair competition and trademark infringement on third-party online platforms with a little planning and effort. 

First, companies should be vigilant in performing their own platform monitoring to detect infringers.  Second, companies should familiarize themselves with platform policies, procedures, and enforcement personnel in order to make effective complaints when problems on the platform are identified.  Third, and most importantly, any complaint to a platform should point to a proper trademark registration.  Registrations catalyze platform action because they provide clear and concise evidence of perfected intellectual property rights.  In contrast, where there is no trademark registration, a complainant must rely on common law rights.  These provide the platform less clarity and excuses for inaction.

When these steps are taken, a business can obtain quick and decisive platform action against alleged infringers without resorting to any legal action.  Successful complaints can persuade the platform to remove the infringer’s listing—or in egregious cases, entire accounts—within just hours of notice and that adds numbers to the business’s bottom line.