Protect now and ensure the future

Paul Lockenwitz, head of strategic analysis at Epson Europe, provides an insight into the importance and techniques of IP protection for businesses of all sizes.

Protect now and ensure the future

Protect now and ensure the future

Epson invests approximately $1.3 million a day in research and development activities and at any one time holds approximately 50,000 live patents.

For companies like ours, innovation is our lifeblood, and it is not only imperative to our ongoing business performance, but also our legal and moral duty to protect that investment.  Ultimately, it is not only companies that benefit from intellectual property (IP) protection, nor are the benefits limited to our employees. IP protection also invisibly gives consumers peace of mind in the safety, security, quality and functionality of the products they purchase.

There are three predominant forms of IP infringement that include copyright, patent and trade mark infringement (which includes counterfeiting).

Epson pursues all three of these types of infringement actively, and with a portfolio of over 50,000 live patents and several thousand trademarks registered at any one time, and with operations spanning the globe, the first priority is to identify infringement and their sources. For this Epson employs four main tactics:

Keep an ear to the ground

The best way to identify an intellectual property infringement is to listen carefully to your supply chain and customers.  The intelligence that they can give you about their experiences and observations in the marketplace is invaluable – be it either through an informal conversation or via a complaint to the customer services hotline. Our channel partners and customers are our eyes and ears.

If Epson receives a complaint about a product malfunction or deficiency it investigates the source of the issue for a potential manufacturing flaw or counterfeit.

Oftentimes, we are also aware that there are certain products like counterfeit dot matrix printer ribbons or projector lamps, that are more prevalent in certain markets and this also helps identification. These products are not only poor value for the consumer, but can also represent a very real threat to public safety and property (such as potentially exploding lamps) as they have not been designed for use with our products, nor undergone rigorous testing.

While as a proportion of our global sales, customer exposure to counterfeit products is tiny in scale, it is nonetheless considered a critical part of Epson’s brand credibility to identify, pursue and ultimately protect our customers from bad experiences with counterfeit goods.

Making counterfeits easily identifiable

Epson employs a range of techniques to make not only our products, but our product packaging quickly identifiable to the savvy consumer.  We are always reviewing and updating these techniques as counterfeiters adapt.

Perhaps more importantly for the long-term battle against counterfeit, we also build-in other identifying features of a more covert nature to help law enforcement such as police, trading standards and customs officials easily identify counterfeit goods while conducting investigations. Taken together, even highly sophisticated counterfeiters would struggle to replicate all of this detail.  As the complexity of copying increases, the cost barriers and criminal risks of involvement in counterfeiting also reach ever higher thresholds, helping us to best protect our consumers, our investments, and our brand.

Membership of anti-counterfeiting associations

Epson is an active member of numerous anti-counterfeiting associations across Europe which bring together all types of companies facing similar challenges in stamping out counterfeits in order to protect consumers and protect the longevity of their brand. Epson is a founder member of ICCE which brings together a number of printer manufacturers facing the common problem of fake imaging supplies (www.icce.net).

Partnership with Law Enforcement

As well as putting in place these protections, Epson also commits significant resources to working in partnership with law enforcement and customs agencies within the markets in which it operates. By giving law enforcement officers the tools, training, and sometimes market intelligence, to be able to identify criminality, it is possible not only to incentivise and enable strong enforcement, but build highly beneficial partnerships in the process.

Most importantly however, is to pursue even small infringements with rigour and vigour.  Beyond the investment in innovation your company may, or may not make, the value of your brand and your customer’s relationship with it is dependent on the quality of their brand associations.  If that includes being exposed to a poorly designed counterfeit product or an unscrupulous website carrying your logo, by not pursuing infringements you are devaluing your brand and allowing unscrupulous traders to put your consumers at risk.

So, for your customers and the longevity of your brand, protect the now and ensure the future.