Before Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt announced the names of their newborn twins, Vivienne and Knox, they secured the domain names of every possible variation of the children’s names. By doing this, they were protecting their brand and those of their children from future harm. What exactly does this have to do with your business? More than you probably thought! Read on to discover what you as a business owner need to know about the risks of “Brandjacking” and how to adequately protect your intellectual property.

What is Brand Protection?

Brand protection is everything you do to prevent anyone from infringing on your intellectual property (IP). IP refers to anything you produce that could be considered “a creation of the mind,” including inventions, trademarks, patents, copyrights, software…even your company logo. Brand protection is done to prevent damage to your company’s image and loss of customer trust, data, and revenue.

What is Brandjacking? 

In brandjacking, someone assumes the identity of another person or organization so they can take advantage of their positive reputation or image, or undermine their messaging and authority. Brandjacking is what happens when brand protection fails. It can take many forms, but the most common ones are:

  • Creating and selling counterfeit products
  • Rogue websites, which can include
  • Cybersquatting: Claiming a domain name to take advantage of another brand’s IP (this is what Brad and Angelina were trying to prevent).
  • Typo-squatting: Counting on internet users to make keying errors when entering a brand’s website so that they land on the fraudulent site.
  • Imitation: Setting up a site that is very similar to another brand, in an attempt to pass themselves off as authentic.
  • Copyright piracy
  • Using IP that is protected by copyright to promote another brand’s products or services
  • Trademark squatting
  • Registering a trademark that is similar to another brand. For example, someone could register a slightly different spelling of a popular brand, or register the same one in a different country
  • Patent theft
  • Selling goods that are protected by another company’s patent
  • Social media imitation
  • These fake profiles are then used to sell counterfeit goods, create phishing messages, and sometimes send malware or ransomware.
  • The creation of fake online reviews

Brandjacking can even be considered a form of negative advertising, and for this reason, is often used for political purposes. In fact, political activist group Greenpeace is notorious for re-creating advertisements using a brand’s look and feel to raise awareness about their environmentally destructive practices.  Regardless of the intent of the brandjacking, the result can be detrimental to a business, which is why all brands should be vigilant and implement the necessary preventive measures.

What You Can (and Should) Do to Protect Your Brand

Large corporations have entire departments dedicated to preventing cybercrime, but this isn’t always feasible for small and medium-sized businesses. There are a few straightforward and relatively affordable measures these businesses can take to be proactive, helping to mitigate costly intervention should a cyber-scam artist jeopardize your reputation or bottom line:

  • Register your trademark, patent your inventions, and copyright your creative product as soon as possible. Securing this layer of protection will help you if you need to take legal action.
  • Buy all the web domain names closely related to yours and set them up to redirect to your site.
  • Use social listening tools. These tools will alert you to every online mention of your brand name so that you can take the necessary action if your brand is ever being misrepresented.
  • Make a crisis management plan. Identify all the possible threats to your brand and make decisions about how each of them will be handled and by whom.

Private Investigators: How We Can Help with Brand Protection & Brandjacking

Private Investigators specializing in Corporate Investigations can be invaluable sources of support at various stages of your brand protection journey:

  • Before you launch your brand, a Private Investigator can conduct a trademark search for you to see if the trademarks you’re considering are already in use. You don’t want to launch your new brand by infringing on the trademark of an existing brand, and if that brand is an inferior one, you certainly don’t want yours to be confused with it.
  • On an ongoing basis, a Private Investigator can:
    • Monitor the internet, including social media sites and online marketplace, for mentions of your brand
    • Identify weaknesses in your technology and processes that may leave your business vulnerable to hackers or cybercriminals
    • Perform background checks on potential employees to cut down on the potential for IP theft or data breaches
    • Monitor the activities of former employees who are under confidentiality or non-compete agreements
  • If you do get brandjacked, you will need solid evidence about what’s happening and who’s doing it in order to build a strong case. Here, a Private Investigator can help in several ways, including:
    • Documenting the infringement and preserving the evidence.
    • Identifying the entities executing the infringement
    • Investigating the supply chain of counterfeit goods and tracing it back to the source or to a point where it can be disrupted
    • Test-purchasing counterfeit goods, taking photographs, video, and audio recordings as evidence of the activity
    • Obtaining witness testimony
    • Organizing the evidence and preparing it for you to present in court.

With over two decades of experience and proven success, Star Quality Private Investigations® has successfully built a rock-solid reputation as Toronto’s leading Corporate Investigations Experts for companies of all sizes throughout the GTA. We know how much hard work goes into building a respected and trusted brand, and we’ll work closely with you to make sure that your investment in your business is protected at all costs. Reach out to us to talk about how we can help you maintain the integrity of your business and secure the peace of mind that you need, want, and deserve.