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22 May 2019

Finding the Right Brand Balance

If you’re looking for practical tips on how to protect your brand online, Session RW20 Regional Update: How Do Brand Owners Balance the Benefits versus Risks of Joining Social Media and E-commerce? (Wednesday, 11:45 am–1:00 pm) is not to be missed.

Presenters will specifically address trademark-related issues surrounding e-commerce in China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The rise of social media and e-commerce presents myriad opportunities for brand owners, creating new markets, and opening new channels to access existing markets, says Benjamin Morris, Partner at PI IP LAW (LEE, PARK & MORRIS) (South Korea).

However, along with these new opportunities comes an array of new dangers, as brands attempt to navigate an online environment.

Of particular concern to Mr. Morris is the potential for infringers to evade current controls.

“Many online platforms have already put in place mechanisms for taking down infringing contributors to their platforms,” he says. “In many cases, the take-down policies follow a very simple algorithm. It is easy to see how such a system can be abused by third parties to potentially disrupt legitimate operations by simply filing illegitimate complaints.”

"(The Chinese social media landscape) is changing and becoming more open to IP protection." Rosita LiThe ease with which users can create anonymous accounts on social media platforms only increases the risk of infringement. Mr. Morris adds that anonymous accounts can make it very challenging for intellectual property (IP) owners to take legal action,“since it may be very difficult or even impossible to determine the identity of an infringer.”

Christine Chen, Partner at Winkler Partners (Taiwan), cites the issue of authenticity as both the biggest opportunity and the biggest threat.

“Consumers are increasingly aware of those brands that stray from their values or beliefs, and aren’t afraid to call them out on it. In fact, calling out brands is now even easier—your brand can lose value overnight if it’s the target of a campaign on social media,” says Ms. Chen. How you handle the crisis can make or break your brand.

At the same time, she adds, if how you present your brand online resonates with consumers, “then you are in a great position to attract even more loyalty. But it has to be authentic,” she adds.

"Taiwan is an exciting place to connect with consumers as people are open to products from both the East and West." Christine Chen

At today’s session, Ms. Chen will share why it’s important for brands to take a serious look at e-commerce and social media opportunities in Taiwan. Taiwan is “often overlooked but boasts a well-developed economy and recently ranked as the 17th richest country in the world,” she notes. “Taiwan is an exciting place to connect with consumers as people are open to products from both the East and West.”

Rosita Li, Partner at Mayer Brown (Hong Kong SAR), and moderator of the panel, will share best practices for the Hong Kong and China markets. She will discuss how the Chinese social media landscape is “changing and becoming more open to IP protection, but at the same time making it more difficult for brand owners to prove they own their IP.”

Session attendees will also gain insight into recent trademark infringement cases centered on adwords and keywords in South Korea, including tax obligations for brand owners advertising via YouTube in Taiwan.

Hitomi Iwase, Partner at Nishimura & Asahi (Japan), will talk about the risk related to the use of social media in marketing in Japan.

“The use of social media is a powerful and effective marketing tool, but once an incident happens, it can affect a lot as well. Companies should be aware of the risks and be prepared for them,” he concluded.

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