Protecting your trademarks and brands from attack on the Internet continues to become more difficult. From cybersquattters who register variations of your trademarks or a domain name as their own in order to divert your business and customers, to keyword advertising infringement and social media trademark infringement, your company needs help protecting tradeamrks online. The most challenging aspect of online brand protection is identifying, categorizing and prioritizing the various problems which occur. At the International Trademark Association Conference in Washington DC, I was able to meet with numerous employees from KeepAlert.com, which provides one of the most comprehensive online brand protection platforms I have seen. Further, the pricing makes sense on a return on investment basis. The folks at KeepAlert provided me access to their platform and have been allowing me to test the platform since early May, 2012. Here is an Interview of Anythony Don, CTO of KeepAlert.
Anthony Don: Fine and you?
Enrico Schaefer: Excellent! Excellent! It’s been a great conference so far, hasn’t it?
Anthony Don: Yeah! Yeah! Many good meetings. For our first time here, that was really a thrilling experience to meet all the IP law firms and to hear about their needs, especially regarding the online brand monitoring.
Enrico Schaefer: Yes, and there are companies here who do online brand monitoring, and I’ve played with most of that software. But, when I met your team yesterday, I was really impressed with the platform that you guys have developed at keepalert.com. I want to ask you just some kind of general questions. What is it that trademark owners need to be aware of in terms of online brand protection and how does your system fit into that?
Anthony Don: Well, at Keep Alert, we’re focusing on the three aspects of online brand protection. First of all, we are monitoring the use of the trademark within domain names. We are trying to identify a cybersquatters. I will come back more thoroughly on cybersquatting, later. The second aspect of what we’re monitoring is keyword and sponsored links, which means the use of a trademark as a keyword on such programs as Google Adwords, for example. There are lots of issues that can be addressed by monitoring those kind of uses online. And the last part that we are addressing is the social media monitoring, which consists in identifying the use of the trademarks within the famous platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
Enrico Schaefer: So on…yes. And you know it’s interesting because I work with trademark owners all the time and one of the challenges that they have is just understanding how and where their brands and trademarks are under attack in the world. And sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s talk a little bit about domain names and trademarks and cybersquatting. That has been something that brands have been worried about for a long time, as opposed to social networking tools, which is more recent. But with regards to cybersquatting and typosquatting, how does keepalert.com assist the trademark owner in seeing where their brands are under attack and getting the types of information they need to analyze that information.
Anthony Don: so, when we address the domain name issues, we have in mind the fact that you should find a good compromise between the completeness of the monitoring. You have to target as many extensions as possible, as well as much variation around the trademark as possible. If you’re doing that in a brute force way, you will find yourself overwhelmed with the data that will be generated. So, we found ways of helping the analyzer of the data by providing a means of pulling the most important cases first to the IP law professional. Let’s talk a while about the way that we are generating the variation around the trademark before we will check whether it is registered or not in the extensions, the tlds, the gtlds, cctlds. There may be the most common version of the domain name is the exact match of the trademark. So, that’s the first part. And then we also have to consider the identification of domains that will contain the brand name or the trademark, so that’s the second part. And we also want to target the domains that are confusingly similar to the trademark, so, at Keep Alert, we will provide many algorithms, starting from the brand name, to generate the most important variations. So, for example, we will have a method to generate the versions of the trademark with misspellings, for example, when you’re switching from a keywords from countries to countries. That’s one of our algorithms. We will also produce versions of the string that sound similar to the original brand that are not spelled the same. And we will generate a list of that labels. And then, we will check the availability in every available extension. there are actually more than 750 such extensions. 270 gtld plus cctlds. And if we take into account the second level domains like dot.com, dot.pl, for example, we reach more than 700 extensions.
Enrico Schaefer: Yes, and it’s interesting because on the domain name cybersquatting and typosquatting front, the most challenging thing for the trademark lawyer in assisting the client is getting a complete picture of what’s happening with that trademark on that domain name, cybersquatting, typosquatting issue, so that you can provide advice as the lawyer to the client as to what to do first, and what is most important. And having a tool that brings all that into a common report and allows you to slice it and dice it, and I know we’ll talk a little bit about this more in a later show, but the thing that I was so impressed with your system is that it really allows you to drill down and filter the results in a way that make the data meaningful, that you can get a sliver of the data within a particular niche issue that your client might be particularly concerned about. The next thing I want to talk about is the second tool that you mention. The advertising monitoring or in the United States parlance, we talk about it as keyword advertising infringement And it’s when someone, typically your competitor, starts bidding on your trademark or brand name in order to trigger their ad, and even potentially uses your trademark protected word and brand in the text of the advertisement itself. How does your system generally deal with that issue?
Anthony Don: So, the dealing of that problem is addressed by our Google Adwords or sponsored link monitoring module. Basically, what you will have to do is to sample the different search engines by your submitting the trademark as a query in those search engines, so that you will be able to collect the advertisements that display in response to your keyword. Basically, that’s what we’re doing. We’re submitting the query to various search engines, of course, we are addressing Google Adwords, but we also monitoring on Bing and Yahoo. And also, less well known search engines, for example, in countries where Google or Yahoo and Bing are not number one, the will be Naver in South Korea, Yandex in Russia, and Baidu in China. So, we will be able to collect the ads that appear in response to a trademark used as query. Another important thing is that you have to define the geographical locations in which you want to do that monitoring. Advertisers buy the keyword in a given search engine that they place their bid for particular geographical location, so you have to collect the ads in various places and we developed a system that allows us to virtually be present in every country that we address and allow us to simulate our presence in these countries, so we are able to check what’s on Google in France, in the U.S., in the UK and so on. And the platform allows you to define in which countries you want to collect the ads.
Enrico Schaefer: And that’s critical because one of the challenges that any single person has is when you’re trying to help your client understand what kind of keyword advertising infringement may be going on, of course, that lawyer is online sitting in one geographic spot, and so these advertising platforms actually trigger ads by IP, geo data, meaning that, unless you happen to be sitting in the UK, you’re not going to necessarily see the ads that that are being offered up there.
Anthony Don: Yes, absolutely. Even though you’d be doing that kind of job manually in the office, it would be a time consuming activity that our platform automates fully and the results comes with the automatically past text ads, as well with the screen grabs, that help you identify what kind of a content is displayed when the user clicks on the ad. Another important aspect is that we are able to collect the deep links from the ads. Because sometimes, if you only rely on the display links, it could be different from the website where you’re actually getting to when you click on the ad.
Enrico Schaefer: Right! Exactly. What I saw from your platform is the amount of the data that you are accumulating on one particular monitoring task is really impressive. And you’re accumulating that data over time and archiving it for the customer so that they can see the evolution of a particular brand attack.
Anthony Don: Absolutely. This is a particularly very true for domain names. For example, it is important to have an audit that corresponds to a trademark.
Enrico Schaefer: So, with regards to the adwords, the keyword advertising component, I think that that is something as a lawyer that I see is very troubling to brand owners. The typosquatting, the cybersquatting, it always seems to be there, but a lot of times, they’re lander pages or ad pages on those websites. When it’s pornography, they tend to be a little bit more motivated. But nothing from my perspective motivates someone more than their competitor bidding on their trademark in order to trigger their ads, and system does that really well.
Now, I want to talk a little bit about the social media monitoring aspect of the platform. Obviously, we’re seeing a huge increase in concern by trademark owners over the use of their marks and brands on facebook, twitter and the other social media platforms, we’ll even throw Google plus in and give them a little bit of a pump, because they certainly aren’t going away any time soon. How does your system deal with the brand attacks in the social media world?
Anthony Don: We provide a kind of analysis in our social media module that allows you to check the existence of a given account with the name of the brand in most famous platforms today, such as Facebook, Tiwtter, etc. We’re also checking the references to the brand in Wikipedia or in the Youtube videos. We’re also providing the screenshots of the content to help the user to identify the potential threats by looking at what’s on the website, and, we’re also providing content analysis of the web page to identify negative vocabulary so that the user can be brought to the most potentially harmful cases directly using our filters and tools.
Enrico Schaefer: Excellent, Excellent. Anthony Don, CTO of Keep Alert at keepalert.com. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. And I really commend you on your product. It’s amazing.
Anthony Don: My pleasure. Thank you very much, Enrico.