How MarkMonitor Leverages Proprietary Tech and Industry Knowledge to Help Retailers Protect Their Brands Online
9.14.17 Cyber Security

How MarkMonitor Leverages Proprietary Tech and Industry Knowledge to Help Retailers Protect Their Brands Online

By: Jessica Sommerfield

The Crunch: Successful e-commerce retailers face the challenge of maintaining a larger portfolio of web domains amid the threat of an increasing array of brand abuse and counterfeit activity. As the leading provider of corporate-level domain management and brand protection services, MarkMonitor leverages advanced technology, industry data, and a vast network of law enforcement connections to help retailers guard their operations and reputations. Compromised domains, trademarks, and supply chains can cost even strong brands both revenue and consumer trust. With MarkMonitor, backed by the power of Clarivate Analytics, retailers can protect two of their most valuable assets — brand identity and reputation.

Success as an e-commerce retailer often means higher profits and expansion into new markets. But, in a largely unregulated digital marketplace, success can also attract criminal activity. Many online retailers know about ransomware and other cyberattack methods but may not consider themselves targets of counterfeit activity — a growing concern that can prove just as damaging to a brand’s revenue and reputation.

“Counterfeiters used to be the ones selling a Prada bag for $100, and people would usually know they were buying a counterfeit. Now, they’ll sell you a Prada bag at a 15% discount, and you wouldn’t think twice about it because you see that in retail all the time,” said Anil Gupta, CMO of MarkMonitor, a company built to protect the brand reputations of retailers online.

Photo of Anil Gupta, CMO of MarkMonitor

Anil Gupta, CMO of MarkMonitor, spoke with us about the brand identity threats e-commerce retailers face.

A problem once closely associated with sketchy street vendors is now running rampant online. Today’s counterfeiters use subtle tactics like misleading ads that divert traffic to replica e-commerce sites. MarkMonitor’s Brandjacking Index shows that 33% of paid search ads related to four major retail brands misused the brand name, whether in the title, link, or text of the ad.

Trademark abuse fools customers into thinking they’re purchasing quality products from a trusted brand, when, in fact, they’re buying knockoffs — which now represent up to 7% of global trade. Counterfeits also find their way into major supply chains, and reputable companies unknowingly end up selling low-quality, expired, or even dangerous counterfeit goods to consumers.

Lucrative luxury brands are also an attractive target of counterfeit crimes because of the high-profit margins on fake merchandise. When high-end Italian fashion company Valentino SpA found its reputation devalued due to counterfeit activity, it turned to MarkMonitor for help. Within 18 months, MarkMonitor had identified and removed more than 83,000 fraudulent online listings, deactivated more than 500 rogue websites, and provided Valentino SpA with a high-tech solution for continued detection and enforcement.

Whether the problem is a lack of technology, internal protocols, or an unknown leak in the supply chain, retailers need help eliminating counterfeiting problems at the source. As an industry leader in domain management and brand protection, MarkMonitor provides retailers with the security they need to confidently conduct business online.

Providing Domain Name Management and Security for Major Retailers

One of the first stages of growth for an online business is the expansion of its product base, services, or market, and that often requires additional websites. While domain services, like GoDaddy, work well for personal websites, businesses that manage several domain names need a service that can help them sort through the complicated process of acquiring relevant sites, following international regulations, and protecting their digital assets on a larger scale.

“If you’re a corporation, you may end up with a large domain portfolio, and you want to make sure those domains are renewed every two years. If you forget, someone else will take over your domain, and your e-commerce business in that market will evaporate. Also, you want that domain protected so nobody else can hijack it,” Anil said.

MarkMonitor is one of the few registrars that provides domain management and protection for some of the largest online businesses, retailers, and e-commerce sites. With access to a customized interface, portal, and resource centers, retailers retain visibility and control of their domains with the additional benefits of MarkMonitor’s insight and analytics.

For those with more specialized needs, MarkMonitor offers additional consulting and advisory services through its team of experts. And all businesses can access MarkMonitor’s generic top-level domain (gTLD) Resource Center to stay up to date on necessary changes.

By enlisting MarkMonitor’s services to maintain and protect their domain portfolios, large businesses are not only securing their footprint in the digital marketplace but taking important first steps to safeguard their brands.

Combining Machine Learning, Industry Data, and Legal Authority to Protect Brands

Companies that sell products through e-commerce sites and authorized dealers in multiple channels often confront an array of threats, including counterfeit websites and listings, brand confusion, and dealer compliance. Well-known luxury brands like Valentino SpA want their customers to trust that the products they’re purchasing are authentic. MarkMonitor uses advanced technology, data analysis, and legal connections to deliver that security to its clients.

MarkMonitor’s anti-counterfeiting service follows a three-step protocol it refers to as harvest, prioritize, and enforce. During the harvest and prioritize phases, MarkMonitor’s machine-learning tools gather a list of potential brand violations by running combinations of common keyword searches, analyzing market trademark images against the originals, and simulating local search results with proxy IPs.

“It uses all of these techniques to flag and categorize listings as good, bad, or questionable,” Anil said. “We apply machine-learning technology to focus on the ones that need to be taken down.”

Screenshot of MarkMonitor counterfeit statistics

MarkMonitor’s anti-counterfeit services help root out improprieties in the supply chain that impact consumers.

In addition to helping identify counterfeit websites, the harvesting process also spots potential leaks in the supply chain. It could be malicious actors registering domains a certain way, or using a particular method to track or ship their products. MarkMonitor uses data to connect information between the websites and emails a business uses as well as between shippers and factories.

“They’ll always leave fingerprints. We bring all the data in and pinpoint the suppliers that are potentially a problem. We give that listing to the manufacturer so they can do controlled buys from the vendor and evaluate the product,” Anil said.

MarkMonitor also leverages its machine learning software to provide anti-fraud services for retailers and financial service companies to better protect their customers from phishing scams and other types of credit card fraud. Film and music studios  — and even software companies — have turned to MarkMonitor for its anti-piracy services and intellectual property protection.

“We have relationships with the various ISPs, marketplaces, and e-commerce sites to take those listings down. We also partner with law enforcement agencies. We give the information to them, and they work very closely with manufacturers to identify criminals and go after them.” — Anil Gupta, CMO of MarkMonitor

Once MarkMonitor identifies abuses, it enforces protocols to quickly take down the offenders so brands can begin the process of reinstating their reputation and regaining lost revenue. The company’s ability to do this is grounded in its authority in e-commerce markets as well as its law enforcement connections around the globe.

“We have relationships with the various ISPs, marketplaces, and e-commerce sites to take those listings down,” Anil said. “We also partner with law enforcement agencies. We give the information to them, and they work very closely with manufacturers to identify criminals and go after them.”

With the tools, data, and authority to help businesses identify and deal with cases of counterfeit activity, fraud, and other types of brand abuse, MarkMonitor protects top brands from threats to their reputation and financial security.

Managed Service Solutions Provide Help from a Worldwide Network of Anti-Counterfeit Experts

Because of the growing seriousness of threats to online retailers and consumers, MarkMonitor stresses the importance of having policies and mechanisms in place to ward off counterfeit and fraudulent activity before it can do any damage.

“It’s crucial for retailers to have tools to prevent supply chain leakage and, more importantly, a proper process to immediately take down listings any time a customer or a company like us brings it to their attention,” Anil said.

MarkMonitor works with a broad spectrum of clients, from businesses that have in-house staff to utilize its technology and enforce policies themselves, to companies that lack the size and budget to do so. For businesses that need a higher level of support, MarkMonitor provides access to managed service solutions.

Screenshot of MarkMonitor Managed Services portal

“Our managed services associates function as if they’re employees at that company, spending a certain number of hours a week looking for counterfeits and taking them down,” Anil said. “Every client is different. We have a large organization with all kinds of expertise that works with many industries.”

By combining the capabilities of MarkMonitor’s software tools and the market knowledge of in-house experts, managed services can help businesses not only protect themselves from current threats but gain the skills and infrastructure to better safeguard their assets in the future.

Acquisition by Clarivate Analytics Helps Build Relationships with E-Commerce Marketplaces

E-commerce success can lead to higher profit margins and rapid growth, but it also attracts unwanted attention from counterfeiters and others intent on devaluing a brand. That’s why businesses are turning to MarkMonitor for help in managing their expanding portfolios and interests — from websites to supply chains.

MarkMonitor’s company history stretches back to 1999, but its 2016 acquisition by Clarivate Analytics marked an opportunity to advance its technology as well as broaden its reach into e-commerce markets that are hotbeds of counterfeit activity.

Clarivate Analytics logo

“Since a large volume of counterfeiting happens in Asia, its marketplaces are a conduit for the e-commerce of counterfeit products,” Anil said. “By having good relationships with those large e-commerce sites, we’re able to better enforce on behalf of our clients.”

By creating new partnerships with commercial authorities, MarkMonitor is moving beyond its role of helping brands like Valentino SpA recover from the effects of counterfeiting to stopping the problem at the source.

MarkMonitor helps e-commerce companies gain the tools and resources to grow their brands online and provide trustworthy service to their customers amid the prevailing threat of fraud. MarkMonitor is proving itself a champion of brand establishment and protection through its use of technology, advanced data, experience, and entrenched global connections.