Brand Infringement: How to Protect Your Brand Online

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

Brand infringement is a serious, potentially costly risk facing all companies today. You can be proactive against the damage it can do by monitoring your brand’s online sphere and competition.

What is Brand Infringement?

Traditionally, brand infringement occurs when competitors, affiliates or other third party advertisers abuse your brand, i.e. trademarks, keywords, ideas, and products, by using confusingly similar aspects of your brand as their own.

More specific to the online sphere, brand infringement also occurs when someone searches for a trademarked keyword of your brand and is presented with an advert from your competition.

This practice has been termed “piggybacking,” and although its legality is still not entirely clear, according to a report on, there are some legal steps you can take to stop brands using those valuable keywords in marketing campaigns.

The report outlines a case regarding cosmetics company Lush and Amazon where it appeared the retailer had been bidding on the Lush brand keywords, despite not selling official products by the company.

Intellectual property law expert Iain Connor of Pinsent Masons said the case, “shows that if your brand is associated with characteristics above and beyond the goods or services themselves, there is an added layer of protection for the brand which means competitors cannot piggy-back the brand where to do so would damage the investment function.”

Steve Jurvetson/flickr

Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Before Online Brand Infringement

Brand infringement is often included in other trademark and copyright laws.

In fact, in the Lush case, the legality referred to a ruling by the EU Court of Justice that says trademark owners are able to prevent rivals using their branding terms, including their name, in advertising if it “substantially interferes with the proprietor’s use of its trademark to acquire or preserve a reputation capable of attracting consumers and retaining their loyalty”.

Whether one company’s branding can be considered as an infringement on another company’s brand depends on the combination of each company’s name, logo, product and sphere in which the product is sold.

Copyright infringement occurs depending on the jurisdiction the copyright law dictates, i.e., a country, state or a more inclusive agreement, which can be international.

For example, copyright law in Australia stems from the Australian Government Copyright Act of 1968. Copyright laws give credit to owners of original work or ideas with the intention of promoting the creation of new works, as authors will receive credit for original work.

What Are the Dangers of Online Brand Infringement?

In today’s vast online sphere, intentional or unintentional brand infringement is commonplace, especially when affiliated keywords of a brand are often-searched and or vague in terms.

Protecting your brand takes more than just defense and after-the-fact damage repair. Entrepreneur recommends that companies work on the offense in order to prevent competitors from gaining advertising space from trademarked keywords of your brand, possibly taking your potential customers.

The risk of brand infringement is so serious because your competitors could potentially be abusing the use of your brand’s trademarked keywords on a continual basis. In order to be proactive about protecting your company’s brand, it is in your best interest, especially long-term.

How You Can Protect Your Brand

So how can you proactively ensure that your brand is safe? By using a platform like Adthena’s competitive intelligence for search tools, you can monitor which competitors are using your brand terms and take action if you feel they are negatively impacting your company.

Adthena’s Brand Monitoring Reports allow you to know who is bidding on your brand and brand’s trademarks in competitor search marketing campaigns.

The company’s reports provide information on keywords, ad copy, brand, time and data and even the estimated impact of the competitor’s use of your brand.

You have the option of filtering the evidence for further analysis, including more or less precise details about the possible infringement. Evidence is collected on a 24/7 global scale, ensuring that all paid searches of your brand are sufficiently documented.

David Goehring/Flickr

David Goehring/Flickr

Bottom Line

The benefit of brand infringement protection cannot be overestimated and it all starts with monitoring your brand’s associated keywords. Adthena provides the tools for clients to monitor their brand and ensure no one is piggybacking on their own keywords.

Detection of abuses to your brand is critical to maintaining your brand’s integrity and success, allowing you to take further action against such misuse of paid search.

Martin Fisch/flickr

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.