The New KnowEm – Announcing our latest APIs and Enterprise v2

October 3, 2013 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News · Comments Off on The New KnowEm – Announcing our latest APIs and Enterprise v2 

We’ve had a lot going on lately at KnowEm and we are very excited to share some of what we have been working on in the labs with you!

Just this past April we officially turned 4 years old, a feat we are quite proud of. It seems like just yesterday we were working on drafting a press release for our initial launch. Since then it has been a great trip and we have had some awesome clients, accomplishments, and products. Well now we have some more stuff up our sleeve and we would love to show you what we’ve been up to!

The KnowEm API – Yes, it’s here. By popular demand we have built an API to perform username searches for our partners. This API will give you the ability to search KnowEm’s database of over 500 social networks for username availability (coming soon: Domain and Trademark Search APIs).  If you are interested in learning more please let us know by scheduling a call using our Contact Form. Not only do we have a username search API, but we also have a full e-commerce API which lets you place new orders and retrieve information on all your orders with KnowEm.  Now you can easily integrate the KnowEm suite of products and tools right into your existing site or dashboard.

KnowEm Dashboard

View of the main dashboard

Verion 2 of the KnowEm Enterprise Dashboard is also something we’re really excited to show you.  The newest iteration of our free Enterprise Dashboard which allows agencies, re-sellers and volume customers the ability to manage multiple accounts in one central location has gone mobile!  With lots of new features such as sub-account hierarchical permissions, more detailed social research, customized themes, and a new, faster responsive design, you’re going to want to see how you can leverage all this social information for your customers.  Contact us to schedule a call for a full demo:

Along with the release of version 2 of this dashboard, we are pleased to announce the ability to completely white label the entire system with your own company logo, colors and brand. This gives your organization the ability to offer your customers everything KnowEm has to offer:

  • Social Media Brand, Product, Trademark or Username profile registration and protection on over 500 social networks.

  • Brand/Trademark infringement Takedown information and assistance for every social network in our database.

  • Social Media monitoring for the use (or misuse) of your Brand, Product, Trademark or Username.

  • Domain registration to protect your brand from cybersquatting on over 100 TLDs and extensions.

  • Trademark Search and Registration on the entire USPTO Trademark database (AU, China and EU coming soon)

Your own version of our dashboard will include full administrative control over everything, providing you with the ability to create new customer accounts, allowing your customers to place and review orders on their own, and to assign managers within your organization for each customer – basically everything you need as a turn key solution for complete Social Media brand management and protection.

If you’re interested in checking out any of these great new features or have any questions about our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us today and we would be happy to schedule an online Webex demonstration for you and your team!

 

Microsoft Follows Google’s Rules of Trademark Use In PPC

Microsoft released an announcement today that as of March 3rd, 2011, they will no longer be making editorial investigations into “complaints about trademarks used as keywords to trigger ads on Bing & Yahoo! Search in the United States and Canada.”  What this basically means is they are allowing anyone to bid on a trademarked term for PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, even if someone else owns the trademark on that term. They still, however, will investigate text within the ads (note their new “Investigations” policy).
Trademark Pay Per Click
This basically follows suit with what Google has already been doing – allowing the competitive purchasing of trademarked terms in the United States as PPC keywords, while not allowing the use of trademark terms within text ads (when deemed inappropriate).  The U.S. is one of many regions where Google will not investigate keyword trademarked infringements, but ad text only (see full list here).

According to Microsoft’s new statement, they are only ceasing investigations to the U.S. and Canada on PPC trademark buying, but obviously they could expand their list of regions in the future also.

So what does Microsoft suggest you do if someone is buying your trademarked term, misrepresenting your brand, and stealing your customers?  According to their new Intellectual Property Guidelines, “If there is concern that an advertiser may be using a trademark keyword inappropriately, the trademark owner should contact the advertiser directly.”  So now the onus is on trademark owners to spend the time, effort, money and litigation to exert the government-granted right they paid for to protect a trademark.  This is basically the same stance Google has been taking for a while now.

Of course, one can readily see why both Microsoft and Google don’t want to be the gatekeepers on PPC trademark rights – they want more advertising money.  By opening the flood gates to allow illegal trademark purchasing, they can get a lot more competitors buying click terms.  Pepsi can buy Coca Cola, and Ford can buy Nissan.  It’s up to the trademark owners to battle it out in court.

If you’re a trademark attorney representing a major brand, you will now have to be ever more vigilant in policing the web for cases of trademark infringement.   And if you’re an SMB out there trying to create a brand and protect a trademark on the search engines?  It’s the wild west out there now, and anything goes unless you have the money to take every competitive PPC buyer to court.

The New Threat of Typosquatting (Misspelled Brands) in Social Media

September 13, 2010 · Filed Under Brand and Trademark Protection, Domain Names, Identity Theft, Online Reputation Management, Social Media · Comments Off on The New Threat of Typosquatting (Misspelled Brands) in Social Media 

A recent tweet by Andrew Nystrom of Red Bull brought attention to a growing trend we’ve noticed in Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook — that of TyposquattingTyposquatting is a form of brandjacking/cybersquatting in which someone registers the misspelling of a brand or trademark term in an attempt to capture traffic from a legitimate well-known entity.  In the case of social networks, this is done by using the misspelling of a username, such as in Justin Bieber’s case. The real @justinbieber has 5.2 million followers, but a misspelled dupe account of @justinbeiber (the i and e transposed) with zero tweets already has over 16,000 followers.

Typosquatting on domain names is not a new practice on the internet; it was clearly identified as a threat as early as 1995 by the Federal Trademark Dilution Act and targeted directly in 1999 with the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act which “established a cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name.”  Eventually ICANN also established the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) for further protection against domain name squatting.


Like defensive domain registrations to prevent cybersquatting, trademark owners should acquire a company name, any trademarks, and any other important intellectual property brands on all social network sites.
Traverse Legal, 9/21/09

While this helps protect trademark owners from issues with misspelled domain names, there isn’t really anything in place yet which protects them on social networks.   This was evidenced as early as a year go by reports concerning name misspellings being bought and sold on Twitter, and not just as usernames, but by API names as well.  It seems wherever a user can supply content on a social network, there is the possibility of that content’s true owner being misrepresented.

So what can trademark owners do to protect their brands?  They can wait until after their name has been squatted and issue a cease and desist to each social network and try and recover it, or they can use a service like KnowEm to proactively register their mark on popular social networks.  For purposes of full disclosure I will point out that I am a co-founder of KnowEm, and I am happy to stand behind our service as the first and foremost social networking trademark protection firm on the internet.

You don’t necessarily have to rush out and use a professional service to protect misspellings of your trademark on every social network, but at the least you should consider monitoring not only the usage of your brand or mark, but several misspellings as well.  Typosquatting has been around since domains existed and there’s no reason to believe it will go away anytime soon, especially with the continuing popularity and growth of social networks.

How To Protect Your Business Name, Brand And Identity

September 9, 2010 · Filed Under Brand and Trademark Protection · 2 Comments 

When good friends Michael and Barry asked if I’d be interested in contributing to the KnowEm blog, I jumped at the chance. My company, CorpNet®, has been a happy KnowEm customer since last year. Like KnowEm, I strongly believe that companies should protect their most valuable assets: their identity, brand, and reputation. And like KnowEm, I believe in making this task dead simple, for companies of all sizes.

Maybe you’re just starting your business. Maybe you’ve been running a successful business for years, but administrative details always seem to take a back seat to hustling for clients, improving your product, rolling out a new service, etc. But when it comes to your business name and trademarks, a few proactive steps can go a long way toward protecting your brand and business. Best of all, it’s easy and affordable — you just need to know where to start…

Make sure your name is available…Conduct a FREE Name Search!

You’ve brainstormed for days; you’ve polled all your family and friends; and you’ve finally settled on a fantastic name for your company or new product/service. Before diving in head first, you need to make sure that the name is actually available for use. First in the state where you are planning to conduct business and then nationwide to make sure no one else is using the same name in any other state. I don’t mean to use scare tactics here, but trust me – you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a trademark dispute. Beyond punitive damages and killer legal fees, you can be ordered to rename your company/product immediately. And all the money, time, and effort you invested building the brand will be wiped out, in an instant.

Additionally, if you try registering a trademark that is similar to an existing mark, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will reject your application straight away — and forget about asking for a refund for your application fee.

So, please avoid these sticky situations and make sure you’re legally permitted to use a name from the start. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Start by conducting a FREE Name Search at CorpNet to make sure your company name is available in the state you plan on setting up the business..or filing your DBA, Corporation, or LLC.
  • Next, conduct a FREE Trademark Search to see if your name is available for use at the Federal level. KnowEm offers a free search tool and this is a great place to start to see if your name would be available for use nationwide.
  • Next, take your search to the next level with a Comprehensive Nationwide Trademark Search.  CorpNet®, can conduct your Comprehensive Trademark search quickly and affordably giving you search results that include both the US Federal and State trademark databases. We also check common law databases and county registrars so you’ll know that your name won’t be infringing on someone else’s property even if they haven’t registered it with the USPTO or their registration is pending. We will check the domain names registrars to make sure no one has taken the domain either. CorpNet’s Comprehensive Trademark Search starts from just $199 and KnowEm members are eligible for a discount of $20 towards this service.

It’s important to know that you can infringe on someone else’s mark, even if they’ve never formally registered it with the USPTO. For this reason, a comprehensive trademark search into state, local, and county databases is critical.

Protect your Assets… Incorporate or Form an LLC!

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to consider incorporating or forming an LLC. I won’t get into all the details here (if interested, you can read about some of the benefits of incorporation here). Keep in mind it’s best to incorporate before registering your trademark to place your trademark under the umbrella of the corporation or LLC.

Register your trademark

You’re not actually required by law to register a trademark. Use of a name instantly gives you common law rights as an owner, even without formal registration. However, you should consider registering your trademark for proper legal protection — after all, you’ve spent untold hours deliberating on the ideal name, and you’ll be spending even more cultivating brand recognition. Registering with the USPTO is a relatively easy process. Expect to pay approximately $325 per class in application fees that your mark would fall under (that’s for filing directly online; it’s approximately $375 per class for paper filings). The process can take anywhere from 9-12 months once your application is submitted.

So why register? Trademarks and brand names have value; they can be sold as corporate assets. But most importantly, trademarks registered with the USPTO enjoy significantly stronger protection than “common law” (unregistered) marks. Since we registered the mark CorpNet, it was exponentially easier to recover CorpNet on Twitter, CorpNet on Facebook, and CorpNet on YouTube. Likewise, if someone had been using the CorpNet domain (or a close variation), it would be much easier for us to recover those properties as well. In the long run, we saved a ton on the legal fees associated with getting injunctions — and all because we registered the trademark.

Your trademarks represent your brand, reputation, and business. Don’t wait too long to protect yours.

Nellie Akalp is the CEO & Co-Founder of CorpNet, Incorporated, her second incorporation filing service company based on the simple philosophy of truth in business and her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in getting their business off the ground in a fast, reliable, and affordable manner. 

Portokabin, Google France and Interflora: The ECJ’s AdWords Trifecta

July 14, 2010 · Filed Under Brand and Trademark Protection, Intellectual Property · Comments Off on Portokabin, Google France and Interflora: The ECJ’s AdWords Trifecta 

Note from the Editor: The following is our first in a series of guest posts from individuals directly involved in Brand and Trademark protection on the web.  In it, Kelly Merkel, Esq, outlines some of the implications of the recent cases of trademark infringement in the use of keywords in Google Adwords.

The latest European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in a dispute about Google’s AdWords service and trademarks is instructive for multinational brand owners and their customers. In the matter of Portakabin Ltd., Portakabin BV v. Primakabin BV, the ECJ again addressed the liability of third parties who choose keywords that are identical or similar to a proprietor’s registered trademarks. Under the facts of this case, Portakabin Ltd., a manufacturer and supplier of mobile buildings, owns a Benelux trademark registration for the mark PORTAKABIN designating metal and non-metal buildings, parts and building materials. Portakabin BV is a subsidiary of Portakabin Ltd. that sells the goods designated by the mark PORTAKABIN pursuant to a trademark license from its parent (the parties hereinafter are collectively “Portakabin”). Primakabin, being unrelated to either Portakabin entity, sells and leases new and second-hand mobile buildings, including those manufactured by Portakabin.

Both Portakabin and Primakabin offer their goods for sale on their respective websites. In order to advertise its products, Primakabin purchased the keywords “portakabin”, “portacabin” and “portocabin” using Google’s AdWords referencing service. Portakabin brought an action against Primakabin in which it sought an order requiring Primakabin to cease all use of marks and/or signs identical or similar to the registered mark PORTAKABIN, including the purchased keywords.

In the July 8, 2010 decision, the ECJ affirmed Portakabin’s standing to bring actions under  Article 5 of Directive 89/104 to prevent third parties from unauthorized use of marks that are identical with, or similar to, the owner’s trademarks and used to designate goods and/or services that are identical to those for which the trademark is registered (consistent with the ECJ’s March 23, 2010 ruling in Google France, in which  Louis Vuitton pursued a finding of primary trademark infringement against Google for making keywords available to advertisers that included marks identical to Louis Vuitton’s registered marks). The ECJ, however, punted to the national courts the determination of whether or not there was, in fact, a use by advertisers of signs identical with, or similar to, trademarks as keywords for an internet referencing service which could be regarded as having been made in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters (as “use” is understood within the terms of Article 6 of Directive 89/104).

The ECJ further deferred to the national courts the question of a “legitimate reason” under Article 7 of Directive 89/104 by which a trademark owner is justified in opposing an advertiser’s use of a sign that is identical with, or similar to, the owner’s trademark (such as the impression of an economic link between the trademark owner and the advertiser or use that is seriously detrimental to the reputation of the mark). In assessing whether or not such a legitimate reason exists, the ECJ provides the following guidelines:

(1)    The national court cannot find that the ad gives the impression that the reseller and the trademark owner are economically linked, or that the ad is seriously detrimental to the reputation of that mark, merely on the basis that an advertiser uses another person’s trademark with additional wording indicating that the goods in question are being resold, such as ‘used’ or ‘second-hand’.

Comment:
This is consistent with current commercial practices for traders in the second-hand market and further consistent with established principles of trademark exhaustion.

(2)    The national court is obliged to find that there is such a legitimate reason where the reseller, without the consent of the owner of the trademark that it uses in the context of advertising for its resale activities, has removed reference to that trademark from the goods, manufactured and placed on the market by that proprietor, and replaced it with a label bearing the reseller’s name, thereby concealing the trademark.

Comment:
This opens up questions of unfair competition in a number of jurisdictions even if there is no literal trademark infringement.

(3)    The national court is obliged to find that a specialist reseller of second-hand goods under another person’s trademark cannot be prohibited from using that mark to advertise to the public its resale activities which include, in addition to the sale of second-hand goods under that mark, the sale of other second-hand goods, unless the sale of those other goods, in the light of their volume, their presentation or their poor quality, risks seriously damaging the image which the trademark owner has succeeded in creating for its mark.

Comment:
This affects the predictability of an infringement ruling in a trademark owner’s favor in cases involving keywords and comparable internet referencing services. The judgments rendered shall be highly fact specific, and to an extent subjective in view of a national court’s own precedents and preferences.

The Portakabin decision, reviewed in concert with the Google France decision, leads the way for a highly-anticipated trifecta of related decisions upon resolution of Interflora Inc & another v Marks and Spencer Plc & another [2010] EWHC 925 (Ch). Google France established that an internet service referencing provider (such as Google) is not primarily liable for trademark infringement for simply sorting keywords that are identical with one or more trademarks (the organizing of the display of advertisements on the basis of those keywords does not constitute “use” of those marks within the meaning of Articles 5(1) and (2) of Directive 89/104). Portakabin further outlines the defenses that a reseller may have when that reseller buys keywords designating the second hand products and establishes advertisements on the basis of such purchased keywords. The crucial question is whether a third party’s ad ameliorates the primary function of origin that trademarks serve to consumers. What activity, or combination of activities, engaged in by an advertiser rise to the level of actionable “use”?

Further guidance on the overall advertiser activity that could constitute “use” under the Directives is expected in the pending case of Interflora Inc & another v Marks and Spencer Plc & another [2010] EWHC 925 (Ch). Initially presented with ten questions on the concept of “use” under the Directives, the Google France decision answered all but the following four queries:

(1) Where a trader which is a competitor of the proprietor of a registered trade mark and which sells goods and provides services identical to those covered by the trade mark via its website

(i) selects a sign which is identical (in accordance with the Court’s ruling in Case C-291/00) with the trade mark as a keyword for a search engine operator’s sponsored link service,

(ii) nominates the sign as a keyword,

(iii) associates the sign with the URL of its website,

(iv) sets the cost per click that it will pay in relation to that keyword,

(v) schedules the timing of the display of the sponsored link and

(vi) uses the sign in business correspondence relating to the invoicing and payment of fees or the management of its account with the search engine operator, but the sponsored link does not itself include the sign or any similar sign,

do any or all of these acts constitute ‘use’ of the sign by the competitor within the meaning of Article 5(1)(a) of  the Trade Marks Directive and Article 9(1)(a) of the CTM Regulation?

(2) Is any such use ‘in relation to’ goods and services identical to those for which the trade mark is registered within the meaning of Article 5(1) (a) of the Trade Marks Directive and Article 9(1) (a) of the CTM Regulation?

(3) Does any such use fall within the scope of either or both of:

(a) Article 5(1)(a) of the Trade Marks Directive and Article 9(1)(a) of the CTM Regulation; and

(b) assuming that such use is detrimental to the distinctive character of the trade mark or takes unfair advantage of the repute of the trade mark) Article 5(2) of the Trade Marks Directive and Article 9(1)(c) of the CTM Regulation?

(4) Does it make any difference to the answer to question 3 above if:

(a) the presentation of the competitor’s sponsored link in response to a search by a user by means of the sign in question is liable to lead some members of the public to believe that the competitor is a member of the trade mark proprietor’s commercial network contrary to the fact; or

(b) the search engine operator does not permit trade mark proprietors in the relevant Member State of the Community to block the selection of signs identical to their trademarks as keywords by other parties?”

Both European and US-based multinational brand owners are encouraged to keep abreast of the Interflora decision. The  “trifecta” will be instructive for creating a global branding strategy in concert with teams of legal, marketing and IT specialists to enhance brand value and ensure resources are expended on true counterfeiting enterprises rather than the resellers that positively influence brand recognition within underserved market segments.

Kelly Merkel, Esq, is the Director of Patents and a Senior Associate at Wolfe, LPA, a certified woman-owned law firm specializing in intellectual property, new media and internet law and outsourcing counseling for corporate clients. Ms. Merkel wishes to thank Wolfe Associate Matthew Russotti, Esq. for his assistance in researching this article.

Welcome INTA Attendees to the KnowEm Boston Tweetup

May 24, 2010 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News · Comments Off on Welcome INTA Attendees to the KnowEm Boston Tweetup 

KnowEm is proud to sponsor a tweetup tomorrow tonight with Rob Holmes (from The KnockOff Report) and Nils Montan (of IP Ally) at the International Trademark Association’s 132nd Annual Meeting.  The tweetup will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at McCormick & Schmick’s in Boston (1 Faneuil Hall Market Pl, North Market Building).  KnowEm is sponsoring the tweetup, so drinks and appetizers are on us!

The tweetup is an informal get-together where we can talk about IP issues, cybersquatting, trademark misrepresentation, social media identity theft, and just about anything else you feel like discussing.  We’re very happy to be in Boston for the INTA Annual Meeting this year, and we’d like to thank the organizers Rob and Nils for inviting us to sponsor the tweetup.  If you’re at the INTA Meeting, or are simply interested in trademark and intellectual property issues in social media, let us know if you’re around.  We’d love to see you there!

Be an Intellectual Property Hero; Don’t Ignore Social Media

April 22, 2010 · Filed Under Intellectual Property, Social Media · 6 Comments 

In the Intellectual Property world, few things matter as much as a name.  Since the advent of the business name and the trademarked word, nothing has been used to identify quality and individuality more than a unique name.  A unique name, as obvious as it sounds, is how people know to buy your product instead of something else.  This was common sense back when there were only billboards, magazines, radio and television.  It was also manageable.

Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare (or none of the above), you need to protect your name on all social media websites.  Our America Online screen names were all that we cared about ten years ago.  Five years ago, all we cared about was our Myspace profile name.  Then Facebook.  Then Twitter.  Now FourSquare.  Which will be the next big site tomorrow?  Today there are thousands of startups vying to be the next big social website.  Currently there are hundreds of sites gaining traction.  Will one of these be the next big thing?  Of course.  And there is no way to tell right now which one it will be.

I advise IP attorneys for a living and stress more than anything else that securing your client’s name on every possible site is the best thing you can do for them.  Some make money pursuing cybersquatters and negotiating purchases of user names.  But seriously, what could take a few minutes now can leave you to much more important tasks. And who doesn’t want to be the hero?

Rob Holmes is the CEO of IPCybercrime.com LLC, a full service trademark investigative agency.