Brands and content owners know too well the process of conducting test purchases to verify and enforce against suspected counterfeit goods. In the modern digital economy, this usually means buying an item based on some combination of risk factors from an anonymous merchant on an online marketplace, verifying the good’s inauthenticity, and pursuing subsequent enforcement. While such ad-hoc test purchasing is a valuable resource in the toolkit to combat counterfeiting, it serves narrow IP protection objectives and enforcement outcomes. We advocate instead for systematic test purchasing at scale.
As we define the two differentiating pillars of this approach, a systematic test purchasing program pursues a larger unified IP protection strategy through a methodical and controlled process of evidence collection. A program that exists at scale includes sufficient purchasing volume to meet the rightsholder’s broader IP protection objectives relative to the scope of the rightsholder’s exposure to counterfeits in the market.
A systematic test purchasing program that exists at scale offers several benefits beyond conventional ad-hoc test purchases. We outline in brief three such advantages here.
Collecting Broad Marketplace Intelligence
Systematic test purchasing at scale provides tremendous insight into the market for a given product or rightsholder’s portfolio of products. Over time, data collected through observations of the market supported by purchases may allow the rightsholder to identify marketplace trends and build models for detecting unusual or unsustainable offers that could suggest the presence of illegitimate goods.
Additionally, such purchasing allows rightsholder to identify potential unforeseen issues within the supply chain, whether parallel importing from international markets or excess availability of sample/trial versions of a product. These instances are rarely reported in listings or offers for the product.
Understanding Counterfeit Reproductions of Your Product
If a product has been counterfeited, there is no guarantee that the exposure will be limited to the identified pirated copy alone. There are networks of counterfeit sellers across the globe, all of which have differing access to materials and resources to pirate a given product. As a result, you may see multiple version or iterations of a counterfeit product which may feature very different traits and qualities. Early identification of these iterations is key as it will inform enforcement efforts and assist with the education of trusted distributors and consumers.
Depending on the product, it may be essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the different iterations of counterfeits. Some counterfeit products, specifically food and/or products that are applied topically, can contain dangerous toxins that are unsafe for human consumption. Being prepared to educate consumers to authenticate products can help to mitigate the risk posed by these counterfeits.
Identifying the Sources of Piracy
The collection of physical evidence at scale not only allows for a greater understanding of the unauthorized sale of counterfeit products, but also allows for connections to be made among networks of distributors of those products. Following inspection of these counterfeit goods, brand owners may notice similarities among both the specific types of products these sellers offer and the specific types of counterfeits the distribute. This may indicate that these sellers have access to a similar source, which is likely to be a more prolific distributor of counterfeit goods.
Once these connections are identified, it becomes possible to potentially review sales/source records “upstream” to identify distributors closer to the source of production. This can be extremely valuable for identifying and ultimately removing distributors responsible for massive infringement.
BCGuardian has significant experience developing and managing systematic test purchasing programs at scale on behalf of rightsholders. Contact BCGuardian to learn how we may be able to protect your brand through such a program!