Brand Protection in Online World a Major Concern for Enterprises

The web, one of the most powerful tools for both promoting and undermining a company's valuable corporate assets - brand and reputation, has also changed the entire nature of protecting them. In a new report, 'Brand protection services', global advisory and consulting firm Ovum says the task will become even more challenging as Web 2.0 technology spreads. It points out that policy makers have yet to balance the legitimate concerns of organisations with respect for freedom of speech and truthful debate and organisations have to be proactive in protecting their online reputations.

The Internet is now a major channel for the sale of fake branded goods, which in some cases results in danger to the customer. Copyright and trademark infringement are commonplace. Businesses have suffered real damage as a result of false allegations spread on the Internet. The annual revenue of online counterfeiting fraudsters has been estimated at $110 bn (source MarkMonitor).

Another aspect of online counterfeiting is represented by the misuse of a web domain name. The attacker sets up a website with a similar name to that of a legitimate organisation with the deliberate intention of deceiving visitors. It extends to virtual services offered by fraudsters on the Web purporting to be the legitimate organisation. The issue will become more prominent as the Web becomes more interactive.

A niche group of service providers has grown up to monitor the Internet for these offences and initiate enforcement action both at the ISP level and in the physical world.

However, according to Ovum countering bad publicity needs a more subtle approach. Debate has to be matched by a positive involvement in online discussion forums. The wider issues of reputation abuse need to be tackled by a combination of prevention, detection and reaction. The first stage in protection is the registration of trademarks, domain names and intellectual property. Web monitoring can detect early stages in the development of an attack strategy. More detailed detection requires the co-operation of ISPs in identifying the use of specific IP addresses and their ownership. Reaction includes, forensic analysis, the issuing of legal notices and follow up action, and the closure of web sites and IP addresses that are engaging in illegal activity.

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