Ugh... I hate it when this happens.
While there isn't much you can do legally without spending a gazillion dollars you can fight back. I don't know about you but when I've dealt with this in the past I tend to think and play hardball. How hard would it be to go after their online presence/livelihood? Could you put up an explanation page explaining your grievance on another domain (and get ranked for their biz name)?
Go after the importers. If they are passing off the products as yours then it depends on the jurisdiction but you can at least take them on in a civil court, or with a bit of luck pass the files to the appropriate authorities for criminal proceedings.
There are no import companies. The counterfeiters take orders through their website and sell direct to consumers.
|take them on in a civil court |
Please elaborate: Which civil court? Which authorities? The country they're based in does not have laws that would be much help.
buckworks, where is the host?
There is some precedent in the US for going after the web host.
I'm not very good at that kind of detective work, but the company that I "think" is their web host is registered in Panama.
Could US Customs help? Stop the sales, stop the incentive to use your images?
Probably just one of those things you can't do much about unless you employ a full time lawyer.
Especially in international, nobody will be deterred. Your argument has no financial or moral incentive in many less affluent countries where counterfeit items are the norm.
Has the "offended company" made a "straw purchase" in order to gather information? What did that disclose?
Do you know what company is handling their international shipping? If so, perhaps discuss seeking an "injunction / injunctive relief" ~ to halt the transportation IF the transport company is subject to US/other legal process. Of course, a slimeball operation will simply have the "packages" moved to a different warehouse for shipping soooo the court (if you can get an injunction) might have to exercise "continuing jurisdiction" to encourage the delivery company to not be so easily hoodwinked. (Same packaging, same volume, same weight, same destinations . . from a building down the street . . don't go there!)
This happens all the time on [a certain international B2B marketplace]. Since these companies are incorporated under [that country which doesn't respect copyright very well]'s law, Iwonder whether there's anything you can do.
|To add insult to injury, they've watermarked the stolen images with their own domain name. |
At least there's something you can do to prevent this. Get in touch with all of the affected manufacturers, and encourage them to use watermarks. Perhaps even point them to relevant tutorials explaining how to do it in php, or in common image programmes.
You could also investigate their inbound link profile. Some websites would rather not be linking to counterfeiters, and may not realise that they are. For this approach to work it would help to have an explanation page somewhere trustworthy, that you can point to as evidence.
Your idea to DMCA search engines is probably the best course of action, assuming they're in one of the "bulletproof" countries.
|Could you put up an explanation page explaining your grievance on another domain (and get ranked for their biz name)? |
If for some reason the DMCA complaints don't work I think this is a great idea, never underestimate the amount of people that do a quick Google check before buying from somewhere questionable.
Whatever you end up doing, after you have some success be on the lookout for them to come back with a new name and domain.
BuckyWorks you must stop the #*$!s at the borders of the markets you are interested in. Blatant copyright/trademark infringement can be dealt with in the 'usual suspect' countries like China, if you have the resources to pursue legal action in such an alien environment... China for example is more and more keen to clean up its reputation and be seen as business friendly. However as a small player, and maybe you don't care about the non-Western market, best to focus directly on your markets.
If you're talking about patent infringement or similar, then you will need to go down a different road, but counterfeits (obvious copies using your trademark or something confusingly similar) should be easier to deal with. For the US, take a look at this:
A touch old now but it will give you an idea. Maybe you can phone the US CBP and talk to someone about the best route to take for your specific issue.
As above, if there are distributors/importers in your market, then go after them, otherwise you will be looking to try to get Customs to blacklist the sender based on the export docs attached to each shipment.
Other outlets like eBay have supposedly decent IP protection plans in place, so make sure you deny them those options.
DMCA is the most powerful tool. If people can not find them on the search engines their sales will plummet. They can still spam via email but hit them where it hurts the most, DMCA. Most search engines honor that.
|DMCA is the most powerful tool. |
Totally agree. First port of call is getting them out of the search engines.
Legal route is very expensive and takes time - but you should start this in motion as early as possible. Even if its just to say that you are taking legal action.
Personally, I would also create a controlled forum under a similar domain to theirs with the word 'review' at the end! What about sending them lots of fake orders somehow? lol. Actually, if they are able to receive money, they must be partnered with a payment system. Maybe try and talk direct to their payment handling company, ask them if they are happy supporting fake websites.
Is there a way you can make it work for you ?
There's obviously a market for the cheap knockoff versions, why not sell the same crap along side your existing products ?
If people are going to buy knockoffs, they might as well buy them from you. As long as everyone knows they're "just as good, but don't last quite as long" I don't see what the problem would be.