Online infringement takes many forms, from the sale of counterfeit or infringing products via the internet, to copying domain names and website content. The internet today has efficiently created a wide range of opportunities for business firms, companies, organizations, and individuals to communicate their brand messages and reach their target audience. However, keeping aside the internet’s openness, versatility, and global reach, its unregulated character has created a fertile ground for infringement of copyrighted content, trademarked brand names and logos, and registered designs. In the broadest sense, online IP infringement covers the sale of counterfeit products and services through the Internet and a variety of other activities, including cybersquatting, phishing, SEO (search engine optimization) abuse, and content piracy.
Considering that we live in a digital age, it is necessary to have a standard method or process of enforcement of IP rights online, that can be easily adapted by companies, irrespective of their territorial jurisdiction. This is because, companies now find it difficult to constantly monitor online IP infringement and can no longer depend on conventional legal remedies for dealing with infringement on the internet. It is therefore imperative for companies to build a proactive and multi-faceted strategy for copyright and trademark protection, which must offer effective methods of adapting to the challenges of the online environment. This especially important for companies whose business primarily depends on publishing content online. Some forms of intellectual property may only give the owners exclusive rights in the country where the IP is registered, and may require any extra-territorial rights to be independently proved or recognized by a court of law.
However, it becomes difficult to implement these principles online, as it is quite easy to maintain an anonymous identity with the help of offshore internet servers. Consequently, the infringers with this kind of virtual presence can generate huge profits. The difficulties associated with the conventional legal approach leading to successful online IP infringement further includes the aspect of lack of uniformity in the legal landscape. Varying IP laws and regulations in different jurisdictions make it arduous to navigate the legal landscape.
Another important consideration is identifying which individual or entity is liable for the infringement, and taking action accordingly. Infringing content may be published on individual websites of news publications or independent sellers, or on individual blogs, in which case identifying the infringer may be easier. On the other hand, infringing content may also be published on media-sharing sites such as YouTube or Pinterest, social media networks such as Twitter or Instagram, and seller platforms such as Amazon or an app store. Infringing content may also be indexed in search engines such as Google, making such content easy to find and popularize over the original content, thereby causing monetary losses to the IP owner.
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