Just like taxes, fighting counterfeit is the perennial challenge for brand owners. With online sales taking the dominant role in the 21st century, guarding brand owners’ most precious assets has become more technical than a legal hassle.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Total retail sales for the first quarter of 2021 were estimated at $1,581.4 billion, an increase of 7.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2020. The first quarter of 2021 e-commerce estimate increased 39.1 percent from the first quarter of 2020, while total retail sales increased 16.8 percent in the same period. E-commerce sales in the first quarter of 2021 accounted for 13.6 percent of total sales.
As the dominant online platform for e-commerce, Amazon enjoys continuing fanatic growth to its sales forces. Through its third-party vendor partnership program, hundreds of thousands of new vendors join the platform each year to sell all kinds of products.
Competitors like Shopify and others also enjoy phenomenal growth using their proprietary technologies to help vendors set up online shops. However, for brand owners, the ease of setting up online stores or listings makes the counterfeiting problem far worse than before.
Online counterfeiters are getting quicker and smarter. They are getting more sophisticated with advanced algorithms and targeted marketing techniques. For example, a counterfeit watch seller can quickly set up an online store, send a wave of targeted ads to Facebook users, and reappear under a different name and online store. The swift actions by counterfeiters make it difficult for brand owners to catch up. Instead of using famous brand names as part of the listing, counterfeit sellers can use images like the one below to make it difficult for a keyword searcher to find a fake product. In this example, the complete phrase “Calvin Klein” is nowhere to be found. Instead, the picture only shows “…vin Klein” and “Calvin….” It is apparent to a person looking at this product but challenging for a regular search engine like Google to pinpoint.
The anti-counterfeiting law in the U.S. is already tough enough. Statutory damages could go up to 2 million dollars if the defendant is found willful. Even if no willfulness is found, a court can grant statutory damages between $1000 and $200,000 even in cases without an actual sale of the accused counterfeit products. For brand owners, the difficulty of catching counterfeiters is no longer a legal issue; instead, it hinges on how fast brand owners can locate these online counterfeiters and quickly shut them down through temporary restraining orders issued by the court. This is when AI-powered search engines such as Huski.ai come into play.
Huski.ai, a Silicon Valley-based tech startup, has recently launched an AI-powered branding analysis and monitoring service. Its trademark search engine is particularly powerful for difficult design mark searches and could become a powerful tool for a brand owner to catch carefully disguised online infringers. In the example shown below, the Huski.ai search engine searched an online store and accurately located the infringing symbol on a jersey that counterfeits the logo for the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers team.
Huski also offers intelligent tools for trademark registrability and online infringement analysis. For trademark litigators, Huski’s litigation tool provides valuable insights and docket entries for all trademark infringement cases in U.S. district courts. It could soon relieve a trademark litigator from relying on the clumsy and costly Pacer system.
With a powerful tool like Huski.ai, a brand owner can rest assured that no “smart” counterfeiter can get away from infringement with tricky techniques. If an online marketplace like Amazon or Aliexpress employs an AI-powered tool like Huski.ai to scan its new online listings, can we finally root out the growing problem of online counterfeiting? While it may take a more powerful engine to police an enormous marketplace like Amazon.com, the emergence of Huski.ai and similar tools are indeed off to a good start.