Beyond anti-counterfeiting – A look into Incopro’s Investigations team
Incopro’s Online Brand Protection experts deliver tangible outcomes to brands by reducing infringement and increasing sales. However, they are also able to offer bespoke analysis and expertise in niche areas such as regulatory compliance and site-blocking.
Incopro’s Investigations team handles unique cases that brands are looking to investigate outside of their main focus areas. These cases range from intelligence gathering and offline investigation work, trend analysis and bespoke reporting, to test purchases, regulatory compliance monitoring and sophisticated anti-piracy action.
Incopro’s Special Projects team is headed by Joshua Hopping. A seasoned veteran of the intellectual property and brand protection space with over 16 years of experience, Joshua works with FBI-affiliated ‘InfraGard’, having been elected to the non-profit partnership in 2018. As part of this role, he shares valuable knowledge and intelligence on anti-counterfeiting strategy and helps inform large-scale operations.
Below, we explore a number of short Special Projects case studies and discuss the outcomes they have delivered for Incopro customers beyond the scope of standard enforcement activity offered by our dedicated Online Brand Protection teams.
Expertise in compliance monitoring and reporting
Incopro’s Special Projects team often works in areas outside of intellectual property infringement. They examine issues relating to regulatory compliance, terms and conditions violations, and parallel imports – all areas that traditionally sit outside of the remit of brands’ Brand Protection teams and IP counsels.
One of our current Special Projects clients enlists the support of Incopro to help them collect bespoke data on parallel import goods and issues relating to illicit trade – an area that their current brand protection provider is unable to deliver in. The team works to identify and report on products authorized for sale outside the EU being imported into the EU.
The identification of key seller profiles in Eastern Europe and East Asia and the documentation of their maintained stock levels is crucial to this project’s success. This data is then passed on to the brand for further action and is paramount to ensuring that goods with packaging that does not adhere to EU health and safety regulations do not reach consumers within the region.
Bespoke intelligence reports
An intelligence-led approach is needed to take down counterfeiters and other online infringers that operate within large illicit networks. Incopro’s unique ‘clustering’ technology is used by our core analyst teams, but also by Special Projects to identify these networks and inform bespoke intelligence reports commissioned by brands.
Incopro’s advanced clustering technology uses over 20 different data points on each listing and page to automatically connect infringements across platforms, uncovering sophisticated counterfeit networks threatening a brand and enabling rapid enforcement at scale. It combines market-leading automated image and keyword matching technology to identify infringement and link related sellers and listings.
The Special Projects team utilizes clustering to identify large targets for one of our customers in the gaming sector. Their primary goal is to find networks that are distributing unauthorized digital goods (UDGs). UDGs include illegitimately obtained keys (a code to activate a digital copy of a game), digital currency, and player accounts. These digital goods contravene game publishers’ T&Cs and are sold at low prices, undercutting sales of authorized digital goods in the process. They cause further headaches for the publisher’s moderation team whom are tasked with finding and removing the countless player accounts linked to this unauthorized activity, including both buyers and end-users of these accounts.
Large-scale global counterfeit targets have also been identified for one of the world’s largest sportswear brands to facilitate online and offline enforcement activity to disrupt their operations. For a large multinational cosmetics company, the team was tasked with identifying key sellers, problematic marketplaces and regional hotbeds for counterfeiting activity, and providing trend analysis for the May, June and July 2018.
Specialism in test purchasing and offline action
If it is unclear whether a listing is counterfeit from its imagery or description alone, it may be necessary that an analyst gathers evidence through a test purchase. Talisman has inbuilt test-purchase functionality, and we have a global network of offline investigation partners we work with to conduct this work, including in Japan, China, South Korea, USA, and the UK.
In a previous illicit trade case, the Special Projects team collaborated with one of these partners to conduct test purchases to verify the legitimacy of heat cigarette caps and identify whether they were of parallel import. This action ensured that products not certified for sale within the EU were removed from marketplaces.
As part of our investigation work, the Special Projects team works alongside our specialist partners to select targets for offline work such as raids of premises. In 2018, Incopro provided data on a phone repair service suspected of using counterfeit parts to WRi, who then liaised with the police, Trading Standards, and the border force to conduct a raid against the premises. The raid led to the confiscation of over 9,000 counterfeit and potentially unsafe electrical items and a complete shutdown of the illicit operation.
Additional anti-piracy support
Working alongside some of the world’s largest screening associations, Incopro delivers anti-piracy reporting and intelligence that has been used to inform site-blocking orders. After site-blocking orders in Australia, Incopro was able to ensure lower overall usage rates of pirate sites in the region.
Collaborating with UK-based Incopro Legal Network Partner Wiggin, Incopro works for one of the world’s largest academic publishers to prevent the piracy of academic papers and studies on platforms such as LibGen and SciHub. The project’s end goal is to provide site-blocking targets in several regions to prevent the dissemination of pirated papers.
Interested in commissioning an investigation?
If your team requires additional capabilities in building intelligence and evidence on regulatory compliance issues, large-scale criminal networks or offline targets, or if you require anti-piracy support, get in touch with us below. One of our Online Brand Protection experts will get back to you shortly to understand the scope of your issue and your brand’s key pain points.
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