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Fakes and social media 'biggest threats' to brands

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Counterfeiting and social media are among the threats that brands consider the most potentially damaging, according to new research. Brands who responded to the survey by intellectual property group Marks & Clerk called for legal reform.

A large majority (73%) of respondents said brands were more likely to be unfairly treated online than offline. Some 64% said the internet made it harder for them to police and protect their brands’ reputation, while 81% thought intellectual property law had failed to keep up with challenges brought by the internet. Ninety-eight per cent said they would like to see more consistent penalties and 96% would like new legislation bringing clarity to the responsibilities of brand owners and online businesses.

eBay and Google were both singled out for criticism by respondents to the survey carried out by the law firm. It quizzed 266 UK business executives responsible for brand ownership, market and control.

Some 86% thought eBay should be at least partly liable for the distribution of counterfeit goods on its site, while 91% thought stricter conditions and penalties should be directly imposed on secondary markets should as eBay.

Pam Withers, partner at Marks & Clerk, said: “For many brand owners the assertion that eBay encourages counterfeiting is probably politely described as an understatement. Platforms like eBay offer the counterfeiting industry one of the most effective distribution channels we have ever seen.”

And Google’s AdWords sponsored keyword service which allows advertisers to bid on keywords relating to competitors’ brands also prompted ire.

More than half (58%) said Google’s dominance in the European online search market puts it in too powerful a position. Some 71% were uncomfortable with businesses making commercial use of a rival’s brand name. And 63% said it was “not at all acceptable” when the brand name in question was protected by a trademark.

The big emerging threat of the future was social media, according to the 69% who said sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook would be the “next big threat”. Some 62% said social media would change from a communication channel to a source of substantial sales within two years. For 20%, social media was already a valuable commercial channel to market.

“With the nation now held firmly within the grip of social media, our research shows clear concern that the digital threat to brand owners is most likely to increase, rather than recede, in the future.”

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