Did you know that typically 7 to 10% of pharma products sold are affected by counterfeiting? This means that approximately $1.5 to $1.7 trillion of the money made from the sale of medicines goes to illegal distributors.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs recently came third in a list of the 10 most counterfeited products and, according to the World Health Organization, over half of drugs purchased online are counterfeited. All these figures may seem shocking but, according to experts in the subject, depending on certain brand’s demographics, geographies of sales, and the type of drug, they can be even larger.

There’s no doubt that the internet, with the anonymity that it provides, has become a very popular channel for the distribution of fake prescription drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). We cannot forget that the new technologies make it easier than ever for fraudsters to duplicate a company’s product or to alter serial numbers. This not only endangers the health and safety of the consumers, but it could also be a huge threat for the legitimate distributor:

  1. It harms the brand reputation of the legal pharmaceuticals. This is because the counterfeited drugs tend to be ineffective and of poor quality.
  2. The risk of legal lawsuits: unauthorized pharma goods can be, as we have already said, very harmful for the consumers. This could mean a lot of trouble for the pharmaceutical companies because of the company liability.
  3. The arrival of the new gTLDs can multiply the cases of Cybersquating. Fraudulent online pharmacies can view them as a great opportunity to buy similar domain names to the legal ones, driving loads of traffic to them.
  4. Loss of corporate profits. Also in relation with the previous point. According to research carried out by the World Health Organization, unauthorized drug distribution costs the pharmaceutical industry over $400 billion each year.
  5. Copyright and Trademark infringements. This not only harms the reputation of the brands but can also result in significant profit losses and undo years of branding efforts.

According to former FBI agent turned pharmaceutical brand protection consultant, Keith Cutri: “If a pharma company does nothing to mitigate risk, it is conceivable counterfeiters will pursue the slippery slope of being able to go replicate the API, the product, or even steal the formulation from overseas factories,” and “if that goes unmitigated, that problem will continue to rise for that brand because there is no incentive for counterfeiters to move on to another brand that ‘has an easier go at the product,’”

However, given all the threats that the pharma companies face, very few of them have some form of them have some form of internet monitoring in place that would allow them to detect trademark and copyright abuse, counterfeiting of their products, impersonation, and other kinds of online piracy. These companies should take proactive action against grey online pharmacies, not only in order to reclaim the profits lost but also to fight against the serious worldwide health risk represented by the consumption of illegal prescription drugs.

dotNice – experts in digital brand protection

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This last week, the 10th Anniversary of the Brand Protection and Anti Counterfeiting Summit took place in Berlin, with focus on subjects such as how to reduce online counterfeiting, how to dismantle, deter, detect and prevent copyright theft and what enforcement strategies are used to overcome global infringement.

Over the past 10 years, this event has hosted over 1000 leaders from 70 different countries, becoming one of the most important events of its kind set in Europe. Always bringing fresh ideas on how to maximise protection in the businesses and avoid counterfeit, one thing that can be relied on is the quality of the Whitepapers created every year ahead of the Summit by the event organizer Legal IQ.

This year, they interviewed brand protection experts from the three most counterfeited industries: Fashion, Film and Sporting Goods. The goal was to gather an understanding of how they fight counterfeit activity in their business. The Fashion sector was represented by Victoria Swedjemark of Björn Borg AB; while talking about the Film and Sporting Goods industries were Kieron Sharp (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and Dr Jochen Schaefer, Legal Counsel of World Confederation of Sporting Goods.

According to them there are 5 areas you need to possess complete understanding of in order to protect and maintain the integrity of your products: Strategy, Framework, Execution, Pitfalls, Status. These are some of the tips they shared:

1. Strategy: The first and, perhaps, most important pillar is to have a strong and well-defined strategy. From taking a pragmatic approach when dealing with the issue, to being sure you have your rights protected at the source, there’s no one single defined path to follow here. You should find the strategy that best fits to your brand. However, all the interviewed agreed on one point: you should employ the right legal partners, people “who understand the online environment and use intelligence and information in the right way”.
2. Framework, or how you should organise your strategy. Firstly, decide what your primary brand is. Secondly, monitor activities, learn from previous experiences (of your own and of others that may have been in similar situations) and file for trademark where necessary.
3. Execution: a constant monitoring is basic in any brand protection strategy, always keep in mind that your goal is to obtain evidence that proves criminal enterprises are doing something illegal. Also, do not forget that if you are operating in different territories, your strategy should vary in accordance with the law of these territories.
4. Pitfalls: Knowing which battles are worth going after and being able to get the timing and balance of protection right are important considerations. You may encounter difficulties throughout the processes, but being aware of them and being able to define them before they happen will surely help your goals.
5. Status: The importance of the brand protection is an issue that is gaining increased awareness by most brands. Recent government and parliament recognition helps to protect the status of your assets or content, fighting against counterfeit and piracy.

With an estimated magnitude of over $600 billion (and growing), the trafficking of counterfeit goods worldwide is constantly an important issue for brands all over the world. When working out how to minimise brand protection abuse, every company should count with a strong brand protection strategy that defends its assets from the very beginning. So when creating and developing this strategy it is extremely important to deal with the right legal experts, who understand what your brand needs are, what to monitor and when to take legal actions against infringers.

Despite their slow start, the new legal gTLDs, .’legal’ and .’law’, are full of opportunities

The new gTLDs focus in the legal field started some months ago, full of expectations and promised opportunities for law professionals. Domains like .law, .legal, .lawyer or .attorney were created in order to provide relevant, credible, and targeted TLDs for law firms, attorneys and other related business. However, they appear to have gotten off to a slow start, at least in the opinion of World Trademark Review.

According to a recent research carried out by this news platform, law firms are taking a “tentative approach” to their new gTLD digital space. For their analysis, focused on the “54 law firms that are agents of the Trademark Clearinghouse, acting on the assumption that they are acutely aware of the ongoing gTLD rollout”. They wanted to know the percentage of them that had registered their domain, or a similar one, containing their brand name with any of the newest extensions .LEGAL (that operates as an open LDT) and .LAW. (only licensed lawyers can register).

Surprisingly, only a quarter of the sample studied registered the equivalent of their key domain name in either of the strings. To put this into numbers: a mere 28% of the law firms studied had registered a dot law domain name, while only 24% of them chose the dot legal extension. On the other hand, only 11% of those firms registered both strings.

Why is this surprising?

First of all because of the low number of registrations. .’legal’, that is owned by Donuts, went into general availability in March 2015 and so far has 6,500 registrations. On the other hand, .Law, which is owned by Minds + Machines, went into general availability on the 12th of October and has at this time only over 3,000 registrations. The other two bigger gTLDs, .’lawyer’ and .’attorney’, add up together to a total of 24,500 registrations. Even if the number per se doesn’t look bad for domains that have gone on sale quite recently, we have to consider that there are more than 1.2 million attorneys in the US alone.

Considering that .LEGAL is an open LDT, one would think that law firms would have chosen to secure their name to avoid it being purchased by third parties. If you have a law firm with an established brand, or if you are an attorney with an established name, you need to protect your assets and registering your firm’s name with one of these extensions is a very good investment which should be taken in order to protect yourself and your name.

However, we still think that the .Law registrations, even if there are a little more expensive than .Legal ones, are quite low. As we have seen .Law (and .lawyer and .attorney as well) requires a validation of legal credentials. This will not only create a sense of trust in your online visitors but the other idea behind it is to give a the search engines an additional trust factor (even though it is still very early to look for evidence of this).

In conclusion, what should a law firm or attorney pursue when registering its domain with one of this new gTLDs? First of all security, to protect your digital assets from cybersquatters, but also to build trust with potential customers.  Most of these new suffixes are a great way to signal to clients and colleagues the presence of a serious legal professional behind it.

Domain names are invaluable digital assets in todays world. Over the last few months, dotNice have been following the epic saga between Lucasfilm (now owned by Disney) and an established online retailer of fancy dress attire, Abscissa. The story begins over a decade ago when Abscissa registered various domain names including to attract online consumers searching for star wars paraphernalia and product goods to it’s webpage. Over the course of ten years, the online retailer used the domain to sell Star Wars related fancy dress attire. The common term given to such behaviour is domain-squatting or cyber-squatting which describes the act of registering or trafficking in a web address with bad faith intent to profit from another party’s trademark. Over the course of July this year, Lucasfilm (Disney) litigators pursued Abscissa to enforce their IP rights and were successful in their endeavours. Following the ruling of Nominet (the UK’s domain name registry) six different domain names, originally registered by the third party, were recovered by Disney and added to their existing portfolio of digital assets. Domain disputes like the debacle are in no way a recent phenomenon.

Following countless cases of online ip infringement, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) established an arbitration system in 1999 allowing trademark owners to file cases against alleged cybersquatters and thus, enforce their IP rights online.

So what actually constitutes domain infringement?

Although a domain name can easily be registered at a relatively minimal cost today, the terms of what constitutes infringement or intellectual property violation can be a little more complicated.
In order to successfully recover a domain name from a third party, the following conditions must clearly proven:

1. the complainant must have a trademark registered (related to the domain in question).

2. the defendant’s registration must be deemed as ‘abusive’ of the complainants rights or infringe on it’s proven intellectual property. In other words, it must be proven that the defendant registered the domain in bad faith for the purpose of leveraging another trademark owners brand equity.

What can brands do to prevent such cases of cyber-squatting?

– ensure you have your marks registered in all countries you operate in internationally

– Invest in building your domain name portfolio to avoid opportunistic domain squatters registering domains similar to your brand

– monitor keywords related to your brand and domain names to ensure you are aware of any dubious domain registrations

– Take swift action once infringement or ip violation has been identified.

Disney’s determined enforcement of their intellectual property rights should be emulated by all brands with an online presence. Failing to establish an effect digital brand protection strategy will ultimately negatively impact on a businesses bottom line.

dotNice – experts in digital brand protection
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The .WINE gTLD has been given the go ahead from ICANN after many months of debate. Although we are still waiting for the official registry operator to be announced, the news is being met with both positive and negative sentiment from the online community.

On the one hand, many wine producers, wholesalers, businesses and connoisseurs are excited by this new development. A .wine extension will allow for wine aficionado’s to carve out a defined namespace on the internet to build and grow online communities and followers with similar interests and passions. Indeed for both established brands and scaling SME’s in the wine industry, the .wine (and indeed .vin) gTLD will help in promoting their products, services and online communities in the digital landscape.

Many wine based brands endorse this new domain extension anticipating that it will further cement trust between online consumers and distributers/wholesalers and further increase competition between online businesses. For online consumers and wine connoisseurs, the TLD will allow quick access to wine related info, experienced bloggers and trusted distributers.

On the other hand, the decision to release the gTLD didn’t come without some form of protest. Ministerial representatives from both the French, Australian and US governments were overtly against the release of the domain extension. They feared that releasing this particular gTLD for public registration may put trade agreements regarding the sale of region specific products at risk. GI (geographic indication) products describe specific products from specific areas of the world. For instance, ‘champagne’ is only officially made in Champagne, France. Many established successful brands with official GI status feared that the new gTLD’s may cause consumer confusion. This, they anticipate, will affect their online sales, consumer relationships and ultimately their bottom line.

Regardless of the apprehension voiced by Australia, France and the US, ICANN have endorsed the release of .WINE and .VIN. Time will only tell whether it was a good move or not!

dotNice – experts in digital brand protection
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ICANN, the regulatory body of the internet’s domain name system (DNS), recently issued a warning to the public revealing that it’s systems were allegedly hacked by an opportunistic cyber-criminal. Having issued a public warning stating that usernames and passwords were retrieved by an unauthorised person, ICANN urged the online community to stay vigilant and immediately change any saved passwords as a pre-emptive security measure.

The following statement was issued by the organisation on the 5th of August,

‘ICANN has reason to believe that within the last week, usernames/email addresses and encrypted passwords for profile accounts created on website were obtained by an unauthorised person’

Whilst investigations continue, it is strongly recommended that all subscribers to ICANN’s website reset their password. They further emphasised that using the same username and password on other online accounts increases security risks. In essence, It is highly recommended to avoid using the same password and usernames for different online accounts. This security approach applies to both professional and personal accounts.

As part of any organisation’s digital brand protection strategy, dotNice further reiterate the importance of using unique encrypted usernames and passwords for all company accounts. As enterprises become more and more aware of cyber-security and potential threats, starting off with basic security measures should be enforced throughout any business, whether large or small.

The security breach comes at a crucial time for ICANN as plans are underway for the US government to relinquish it’s oversight of the DNS and relegate the responsibility to ICANN. This handover is expected to happen in March 2016 when Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN, plans to step down from his position.

dotNice – experts in digital brand protection
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The web has become a notorious channel for fraudsters to sell counterfeit and often dangerous drugs to unsuspecting consumers. Over the past number of years, newspaper headlines had been dominated with genuinely frightening tales of the dangers of purchasing unregulated drugs online. Many consumers are often attracted by cheap, inexpensive deals advertised for such products. But at what cost?

Following on from the precedent set in the US by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NAPB), The European Commission recently proposed a new policy to further strengthen the regulation of online sales of pharmaceutical products. To effectively police the sale of online drugs, they issued a directive stating that a universally accredited hallmark must be clearly visible on all online drug sites. The hallmark itself allows consumers to identify whether the site is certified and legitimate. Only authorised online pharmacies who have proven lawful licenses will be granted this essential ‘seal of approval’.

The European Commission’s decision comes a few months after a similar initiative was promoted by the National Association of Pharmacists of the USA. The association submitted an application on ‘behalf of international pharmacy coalitions and national pharmacy associations to ensure that the .PHARMACY gTLD shall serve as a trusted, hierarchical, and intuitive namespace for legitimate Internet pharmacies’.

Investigations by the association uncovered some startling statistics. After analysing numerous websites selling pharmaceutical products since 2008, they found that more than 96% of the 11,000 sites assessed were non-compliant with United State’s federal law for the sale of drugs. At present, 62% of these sites did not present an official mailing address. In addition, 91% of the sites did not appear to be linked to online networks authorised to sell drugs on the web.

It goes without saying that rogue websites selling unregulated drugs online present great dangers to the health of consumers on a global level. Thankfully, the proposal presented by the European Commission marks a progressive step forward in consumer protection.

This directive will also be of enormous benefit to pharmaceutical distributors in terms of protecting their brand equity, online reputation and digital assets. The decision of the European Commission is ultimately a victory for legitimate online drugs stores in protecting their brand. Ridding the web of rogue sites selling counterfeit drugs ensures that consumers can purchase safe products from genuine and lawful distributors. Trust between consumers and digital brands will be further cemented.

dotNice – Experts in Digital Brand Protection
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Over the past few weeks ICANN has caused quite a stir to businesses and trademark owners alike after announcing it was considering a proposal to force commercial registrants’ to display their identity when registering new domains.
This new proposal would see an end to commercial domain registrants’ ability to shield and hide their identity and rendering their registration details accessible on WHOIS platforms. It comes as no surprise that privacy campaigners are angered by the proposal.

ICANN released the ‘Initial Report on the Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Policy Development Process’ on the 5th May, to allow for public comment on some of the points addressed. Some of the key questions raised in the report asked whether or not commercial entities registering domain names for economic and financial purposes should be exempt from privacy rights. Further questions examined what measures and policies would be required to enforce the contactability of the registrants. Furthermore, the report also asked to what extent should full WHOIS reference details be disclosed? The time frame for public comment ended on the 7th of July and at present we are waiting for press release on the report’s findings.

It comes as no surprise that many trademark owners are perturbed by ICANN controversial proposal. The digital landscape is fraught with potential threats to both personal and professional security. Many businesses enforce a policy of proxy registrations as an integral part of their brand protection strategy. The Online Abuse Prevention Initiative, a collective of activists for civil rights and internet anonymity, contend that the proposal would benefit and encourage cyber-criminals, online harassers and internet stalkers allowing them access to the personal details of women and LGTBQ campaigners. They argue it would deprive domain owners of their privacy and security. This type of activity, known as doxing allows confidential data of internet users to be exposed on the web.

Not all enterprises are put off by ICANN’s proposal. Naturally enough, the US entertainment industry is a strong supporter of the proposal as access to registration data will allow them to pursue copyright and trademark infringers with greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It would save the industry millions in legal enforcement. For the moment we will have to wait and see what decision ICANN will reach on this matter. Stay tuned for more updates.

dotNice International Limited – experts in digital brand protection
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There has been steady progress in the ongoing release of new gTLD’s. With ICANN’s shakeup of the digital landscape, the era of dot com dominance is possibly coming to a close. Optimising your domain portfolio will ultimately benefit your business. By protecting your brand, you can grow your business.

We’ve outlined below the newly available gTLD’s available for public registration for since June and July. Keep an eye out also for the upcoming new gTLD’s in August.

August 2015


July 2015:


June 2015:


To view more New gTLD’s available for registration, click here !

Digital Brand Protection For Start-Ups

Making your start -up a success is no easy feat. Recently Forbes magazine revealed a bleak truth that 9 out of 10 startups fail. It goes without saying that entrepreneurs face many challenges when developing their business into a thriving successful enterprise. One key feature that arises time and time again regarding the failure of a startup is their inability to garner trust from new customers. Without loyal customers, you have no business. One of the greatest challenges facing brands today is building your brand name into something or someone associated as trustworthy. Building this trust with your prospective customers is a true recipe for success. It naturally makes sense that start-ups should protect their online brand identity.

How can a start-up with limited budgets and resources fully safeguard their online identity and brand integrity?
We outlined a list of precautionary steps below on how to safeguard your digital brand presence without breaking the bank!

1. Invest a Little, Save Alot.

Invest a little time and revenue in developing your domain name portfolio. If your business is expanding into new markets, ensure you have trademarks registered in all countries you operate in. Investing a little revenue in trademark monitoring will help you manage your intellectual property assets proficiently. This will allow you to be aware if some third party is trying to harness your brand equity. It also will allow you to identify any case of infringement.

2. Embrace New Opportunities

Optimise your domain name portfolio by registering appropriate new gTLD’s. When used correctly, domain names can be integrated as part of an effective digital marketing campaign for start-ups with limited funds and resources. In this way you can further develop your digital asset portfolio, whilst also generating web traffic to your website. Two birds, one stone!

3. Stay One Step Ahead: Defensive Registrations.

Following on from celebrities like Taylor Swift, Kevin Spacey and Oprah Winfrey, defensively registering ‘controversial’ domain extensions may save your business huge fortunes down the line. Many enterprises are purchasing the domain extension dot-SUCKS in a bid to ensure that opportunistic domain-squatters or brand-hijackers don’t get the chance. Failing to register your brand name with this controversial gTLD could result in your brand falling victim to online slander, brand-jacking and defamatory abuse.

Alternatively, you can turn something bad into something good. Many online brands are choosing to redirect Web traffic from a .SUCKS domain to a ‘customer service forum’ where customer comments can be voiced. This is an excellent example of turning a bad situation into a good one. This would allow you to always stay informed of what your customers think of your product or service and allows you great opportunity to further enhance your customer relationships. Adopting this ethos when your business is still in start-up phase will definitely contribute to your success.

4. Renew, not Regret

Renewing an expired domain name is considerably cheaper than negotiating a domain sale with a third party. In the long run, renewals are cheaper than legal arbitration proceedings. Many start-ups simply would not have the capital to recover a domain name from a domain squatter. Therefore, It is important to make sure you have enough resources to monitor domain expirations, particularly if you have a global presence.

5. Trademark Trolling

All Startups must monitor the domain names related to their trademark. Failing to do so could result in a domain-squatter or typo-squatter registering a web address. Investing a little capital in trademark surveillance services will ultimately save you potentially huge financial costs in the future.

6. Reputation Reporting

It is essential in todays digitised world for startups to monitor their online brand reputation. Web tracker software can provide valuable insights into the public’s perception of your brand or product. Approximately 8 in 10 American consumers read customer reviews prior to purchasing and item or service. In other reports, it was revealed that 73% of prospective customers considered positive consumer reviews as a deciding factor in making them trust a particular brand. As startups begin to scale, it is crucially important that while you establish your online reputation, you also safeguard it from slander. Maintaining awareness of what is being said in the public space (social media, online platforms and peer to peer networks) will be key to your start ups survival.

Although scaling your startup can seem like a daunting task, implementing some of the steps above will ensure your businesses future success in the digital space. Maintaining a solid digital brand protection strategy will assure that your business will not only survive, but thrive.

dotNice International Limited – Experts in Digital Brand Protection
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