Developing a product and building up a brand takes a lot of time and money. You have likely invested substantially in the creation of your company over the course of many years. Unfortunately, when you do become successful, there will be many people who want to take a piece of that success for themselves.
It is shockingly common for companies to intentionally copy other products, potentially violating your intellectual property by infringing on a patent. Even if the product itself has no patent, another company may infringe on your rights by duplicating your packaging or illegally using your brand name for substandard products. When that happens, you need to take action immediately to protect your company's reputation.
You have copyright protections even if you never filed for them
Many business owners find intellectual property law confusing, in part, because there are both registered and unregistered protections available to individuals. For example, you may have taken the step of copyrighting your company name, your product name or a slogan. You may also have trademarked a logo or the images you use for packaging your product.
Even if you never filed for trademark or copyright protections, you still have them under the law. As soon as you make a creative work publicly available, a process known as publishing it, it receives basic copyright protections. You do not need to pay a government fee or enter anything into a database to receive those baseline protections for your business.
However, filing a trademark or copyright request can make it easier to push back against those who violate your intellectual property rights. If you do need to take action against a company using your logo, your packaging or your brand name, many times the first step will be filing for copyright or trademark protections and then serving the other party with a cease-and-desist letter.
Take immediate action to reduce the brand impact of intellectual property theft
When people start receiving knockoff products packaged as your brand's products, it can create negative press. From angry online reviews to requests for refunds from people who never paid your company a penny, the impact on your brand could be substantial. As soon as you realize that someone has infringed on your intellectual property and produced a knock-off product, you should advise your followers and customers.
Send out a message to your contact list, including your customers and clients. Put a note up on all of your social media pages and on your website. Point out ways that people can avoid knockoffs, such as buying directly from your site. You might want to make a note about how much of the current packaging you have and then commit to changing to new packaging to deter knock-off products in the near future.
You can take action against a company that violates your intellectual property or businesses that sell knockoff products. The sooner you start holding these unscrupulous businesses accountable, the less damage these actions will likely do to your brand overall.