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By Richard Gearhart
Founding Partner

In the current digital age, trademark infringement has taken on a new form on the internet, which presents distinctive challenges to brand owners. The online world is rife with activities such as cybersquatting, where individuals register domain names resembling well-known trademarks or other misleading practices that wrongly use brands online. These activities have the potential to weaken a brand’s identity and deceive consumers, making it imperative for businesses to have an in-depth understanding of these issues and tackle them efficiently.

Understanding Trademark Infringement

Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a trademark—or a mark substantially similar to it—in a manner that confuses consumers about the source or origin of goods and services. Online, this risk is amplified due to the internet’s global reach. Infringement can manifest in various forms, such as using a company’s trademark in a domain name without permission, in social media usernames, or within online advertisements, all of which can mislead consumers and divert business. For businesses, understanding the boundaries of trademark use and recognizing infringements is crucial to maintaining the integrity of their brand in a competitive digital marketplace.

Cybersquatting Explained

Cybersquatting involves registering, holding, or selling a domain name that closely mimics or is deceptively similar to a well-known trademark with the intent of profiting from it. Cybersquatters often target established brands, aiming to leverage their reputation or coerce companies into purchasing the domain at a premium. This practice not only misleads consumers but also potentially harms the brand’s reputation by associating it with unrelated or negative content. Understanding the mechanics and motivations behind cybersquatting is essential for businesses to effectively guard against it and ensure their brand’s integrity remains intact.

Other Forms of Online Brand Abuse

Online brand abuse extends beyond cybersquatting, encompassing a variety of deceptive practices that can damage a company’s reputation and consumer trust. This includes counterfeit selling, where fake products are marketed under a brand’s name, unauthorized use of trademarks in social media handles, and misleading online advertisements that create false associations with a brand. These tactics can dilute brand identity and potentially divert sales. Brands may also face issues like ‘keyword squatting’ where competitors use trademarked terms in search engine optimization to attract traffic illegitimately. 

Legal Remedies and Protection Strategies

If you find that your trademark has been infringed upon online, several legal remedies are at your disposal. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) allows trademark owners to file lawsuits against parties who, in bad faith, register domain names identical or confusingly similar to a trademark. Another powerful tool is the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP), which enables trademark holders to challenge the improper use of their trademarks in domain names without the need for lengthy litigation. Engaging in these legal processes can help reclaim your rights and stop the misuse of your brand. Proactive legal strategies and prompt action are key in protecting your trademark and maintaining control over your brand’s online presence.

Preventive Measures to Protect Your Brand

To safeguard your brand from online infringement, proactive measures are essential. Begin by securing trademarks for critical brand elements and monitoring the web for unauthorized uses. Implementing a robust online brand protection strategy, including regular searches for infringing domain names, counterfeit goods, and improper use of trademarks in digital advertisements, is important. Additionally, setting up Google Alerts for your trademark terms can help detect potential abuses early. Educating your team on these issues and establishing a rapid response plan will ensure you’re prepared to act swiftly against any infringement.

Contact an Experienced Online Trademark Infringement Attorney

At Gearhart Law, we defend your brand against online infringement. Our team provides guidance on legal protections and swift action plans tailored to your needs. Ready to protect your brand? Contact us today for a consultation, and let us help you secure your online presence.

About the Author
Richard Gearhart, Esq. is the founder of Gearhart Law and the host of a weekly radio show for entrepreneurs called “Passage to Profit”. He has built a firm with an international presence that helps entrepreneurs from around the world with their patent, trademark and copyright needs. Richard commands a breadth of experience that comes from nearly 30 years of practice in the writing and prosecution of hundreds of patents, and in all aspects of Intellectual Property law. In 2022, Richard was recognized by ROI New Jersey as a 2022 ROI Influencer in the Law List category for being one of the best of the best in New Jersey for intellectual property law. Gearhart Law emerged from Richard’s passion for entrepreneurship and startups and his belief that entrepreneurship grows the economy and creates jobs. When we started Gearhart Law, our goal was to help and support the new business ventures of 500 entrepreneurs and inventors. After 12 years, the firm has far surpassed this goal; today, we look forward to helping even more inventors and entrepreneurs get off to a great start and reach their own goals.