Monitoring the Internet to Protect Your Intellectual Property

The recent news about the availaibility of “Wikiscanner,” a website that allows users to see who edits various Wikipedia entries, serves as a reminder that Internet monitoring to protect a company’s business can include a wide array of activities.  Many companies have marketing staff to monitor and edit Wikipedia entries for descriptions of a company’s products – as well as entries for the company itself. 

The news also serves as a reminder that Internet monitoring should be a part of the IP protection strategy for any company that derives value from its brands, copyrightable works or technology.  Online policing is a multi-faceted activity.  Depending on the nature of the IP to be protected, monitoring activities can be directed to: 

  • chat rooms, message boards and blogs for discussions relevant to a company’s technology or brands;
  • auction and resale sites for counterfeit goods and trademark infringement;
  • audio, video, text and file sharing sites;
  • phishing and other activities where an emailer or website poses as another company.

Several service providers offer software that automates at least some the monitoring activities, although it’s always best to include humans in the review, especially those who are familiar with the company’s IP so that they can recognize potentially problematic activity.  In addition, companies should be careful about how and when to initiate enforcement activities against online piracy, as in many cases a “cease and desist” letter can trigger adverse publicity or even a lawsuit.  Because of this, online monitoring should be a coordinated effort between a company’s legal counsel and marketing team. 

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