Protecting Your Intellectual Property on E-Commerce Platforms in the Pandemic Aftermath

Anita Gerewal, Mackrell International Member Firm for Malaysia, Ram Caroline Sha & Syah, spoke at the Mackrell International webinar titled "Pandemic Aftermath: Shield your IP in this Digital Era”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of intellectual property protection for businesses operating e-commerce platforms.

Due to the pandemic, many brick-and-mortar businesses have pivoted to online platforms. While many businesses had already invested in an online presence, the influx of new digital activity has resulted in a high degree of product and service saturation and competition.

The result has been a drastic need for these newly electronic enterprises to become proactive about reaching customers in the digital marketplace. It is not now enough for a business to set up a website and to simply sit back and wait for customers to find them.

Thus, a variety of online marketplaces have emerged. Major e-commerce players such as Amazon and Alibaba existed prior to the pandemic. However, others such as localized platforms; Shopee and Lazada have gained prominence in the past year.

Additionally, social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook have now also become e-commerce platforms. No longer do these platforms exist merely to facilitate conversation, they have now introduced tools that allow users to sell goods and services online.

It is not strictly speaking even necessary to maintain a dedicated website any longer.

With this increased online activity, of course, come issues of security and intellectual property protection.

An e-commerce presence means that a business is sharing its brand on global platforms, accessible by anyone, with any intention.

Online infringement has increased accordingly. What we see, however, is not simply the typical variety of goods counterfeiting or gray market goods but more novel types of infringement such as sales by unauthorized distributors and unfair competition.

For example, genuine items are being sold without copyright consent or with unauthorized pricing decreases.

There is no control over price by brand owners. They are losing control of the ability to set a market price for a product and end up competing with themselves, to an extent.

The race to compete in e-marketplaces has created a need for enterprises to move fast and to change more quickly than they were prepared to do. They look for shortcuts.

Instead of creating a new process or innovating, they emulate their competitors or copy a known process without thought as to whether they are infringing upon someone else’s intellectual property.

It doesn’t help that many national patent, trademark, and copyright registration offices have slowed the approval processes for such applications drastically at this same time, due to the pandemic’s effect upon their own staffing and resources as well as due to the huge increase in applicants.

Given all of this, what do brand owners need to be aware of?

First, IP owners have to be very quick with research and development. When they innovate, they must move quickly to register their intellectual properties with the appropriate authorities.

They must then move just as quickly to enforce their intellectual property rights when infringement does occur. Most e-commerce platforms have processes in place for quickly lodging complaints and issuing take-down notices.

Brand owners should take advantage of these tools.

It is vital to monitor your IP portfolios and licenses to ensure that new processes and channels of commerce into which your business has entered is covered by existing intellectual property ownership, to enforce those existing assets, and to register new patents and trademarks where necessary to sweep those new processes into your portfolio.

Vigilance is a must.

You can view the entire session below