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Brand Attacks and Online Counterfeiting

What do Disney, Barbie, CNN, Honda and Mercedes have in common? They topped the list of the 10 brands most commonly associated with pornography on the Internet, according to a study by Cyveillance™42, who specialise in on-line brand protection. The other five brand names most often found in pornographic Web sites were Levis, ESPN, NBA, Chevy and Nintendo, respectively.

These popular brand names appeared in hidden or visible text on the sites identified and in metatags in 25 percent of the
sites suspected of containing pornography-presumably without the brand owners' knowledge.

This study is based on analysis of more than 300,000 Web pages, 75,000 were suspected of containing pornographic material and, of those, approximately 19,000 (25 percent) contained one or more of the nearly 120 popular brands included in the study.

The site above shows a well known British high street retailer evident in the metatag of a pornography site. The practice is quite common. The world of the Internet has also revealed that some companies have used the same device to attract consumers from competitors! In the UK a company discovered a sudden drop in visits to its site. On investigation it found a competitor had used its name in the metatag, thus steering search engines towards the competition.

In another case, a company used competitor comparisons naming specific brands in its Web pages to seduce search engines to bring competitor enquiries to its site. Some companies have used front organisations to attack brands they are often noticed because they attack only one type of product when others exist in the market niche.

Sharon Beder who wrote are Global Spin mentions a corporate front group called "Mothers Against Pollution", which campaigned against plastic milk bottles. It was discovered that this was initiated by the owner of a company which produced cardboard cartons.

When Yahoo began offering free email accounts to the general public, they made a critical mistake in setting this up so that "@yahoo.com" was the assigned domain for these accounts. Up until then, yahoo.com was used for the company's own employees, and these email identities switched to "yahoo-inc.com." It didn't take long before some enterprising sort claimed contest-winner@yahoo.com or some such tantalising address, and had people sending their credit card numbers, thinking they were corresponding with a genuine Yahoo employee.

Software is being distributed which allows users to change the contents of a web site, adding their own remarks to it as desired, and that there was 'no way' the webmaster is able to prevent it and there is no reason why the webmaster should even be aware it was happening?

A company called Third Voice, distributes a browser that lets you mark up any web site you visit with your own commentary, anywhere on the page you feel like. The page is then stored on a server at Third Voice. Anytime you set your browser to some URL, a search is made of the server at Third Voice and will display the changed pages.

If Third Voice does not have a copy of the page on file, then they just let you take the webmaster's actual copy instead. For the user, it is all quite transparent. All the user has to do is indicate a desired URL, and the browser will go off in two directions: one
to the actual site, and two, to the Third Voice server. If it finds a copy at Third Voice, then that is the copy you receive.

In most cases, unless the webmaster himself happens to view his page using the Third Voice browser application, he won't even know his page was defaced and rewritten. Third Voice believe it will improve the net by allowing everyone to comment o whatever web sites they visit, and to have their comments available to all other visitors as well.

At the core of much Internet marketing is a presumption that companies and organisations are protecting Intellectual Properties. Copyright, patents, trade marks registered and company names and Internet addresses need considerable attention. Companies do not own what they do not protect. As these case studies show, a number of companies need to be much more aware of how they will protect their good name and the value of their brands as the Internet becomes more pervasive.

Article Series

This article is part 5 of a 12 part series. Other articles in this series are shown below:
  1. Interactivity
  2. Brand Performance
  3. Online PR
  4. Sponsorship Marketing
  5. Brand Attacks
  6. Cyber Counterfit Sales
  7. Internal Communications
  8. Cyberstalkers
  9. Protection from Cyberstalkers
  10. Investor Relations
  11. Share Scams
  12. Protecting Investors
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