We sat down with Tim Santoni, who does intellectual property investigation. Tim tells us what an IP investigator is and how he catches counterfeiters, saves companies money, and protects their brands.
Tell us about what you do.
For the past 14 years, I’ve been working with businesses, both large and small, focusing on brand and intellectual property protection, surveillance, background checks, due diligence investigations, and comprehensive litigation support. We conduct anti-counterfeiting operations and investigate instances of global trademark counterfeiting. Our background research team offers employment screening, background checks and due diligence investigations.
We also participate and organize domain name acquisitions (we do this anonymously) and investigations, acquiring thousands of domain names on behalf of our clients, both nationally and internationally. One client, a major consumer packaged goods company, hired us to secure an already registered domain name they wanted to use in connection with a major upcoming brand and product launch. In four days, we were able to secure the purchase of the domain name, negotiating anonymously and saving the client $50,000 and enabling the client to launch on schedule.
On any given day, I’m consulting with clients, speaking about new projects and creating investigative plans. I oversee the team that’s actually doing the IP investigations but it’s up to me to understand the law and precedents and to make sure we’re taking the right course of action for the client.
What exactly is an IP investigation?
In short, we look into instances of trademark and brand infringement — clients hire us to look into who has been using their mark or brand. Our team researches who these people are, sees how long they’ve been at it and how they’ve been using the trademark or brand. We’re tasked with finding out if these businesses are actually infringing, if they’re legitimate third-party sellers or if they are selling gray market goods, also known as parallel imports.
We’re also getting intelligence on the people themselves. Mainly, what kind of people are they to deal with? Are they litigious? How many of them are there? What are their resources and how deep are their networks? There’s a strategic element to enforcement and litigation, there’s no one-size-fits all tactic when it comes to dealing with this type of work.
What are some of the most high-profile cases you’ve worked on?
Companies will hire us to buy back certain domain names from those who’ve been using them since they don’t want to be behind the technical aspect of the sale. We recently worked with a global clothing retailer to help them quickly acquire and register branded domains in the EU. This isn’t something that’s done easily since there are a lot of registration requirements in the EU. We were able to negotiate the sales and get them the domain properties needed to go to market.
We’ve also worked with the FBI to identify counterfeiters. A major software company hired us to solicit the sale of counterfeit products from China in order to make a larger case. A global electronics company hired us to track unauthorized sellers. Unauthorized sales of products can cause big problems. If a TV is listed for $999 and an unauthorized seller is selling it for $799, legitimate sellers get upset. If they lose business then they lose confidence in the brand and decide not to carry it. That’s a big headache for everyone.
We also go after people who sell prescription pharmaceutical knockoffs, via online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. This kind of counterfeiting is especially serious since these products don’t just undermine a brand’s reputation and quality, it can cause public harm.
How do you see the online landscape changing in the last 5 years?
Prior to 2008, people used to search more for domains, do more due diligence. Now people are in such a rush to get to market, they just “google and run” — they think if the domain is available then the trademark and brand is too. They grabbed the domains and dealt with the issues later. This is leading to a lot more litigation over intellectual property. When you’re starting a business you need both the trademark and the domain.
Does all this new technology make it easier or harder to get away with IP theft?
It’s not exactly that technology is making easier for people to get away with IP theft, it’s more complex than that. Counterfeiters have always exploited the breakdowns in business processes to steal ideas and product. Now, they are simply exploiting the holes in technology that businesses expose themselves to by sending information to un-vetted suppliers and manufacturers, not locking down websites and servers and sharing information with third party consultants that might not be loyal to the business.
Technology now gives unscrupulous business people the ability to quickly get to market. This means that your business or brand can be exploited much more quickly and on a larger scale.
At the same time, technology is helpful to us because there is much more electronic data that is being scraped that makes it available for review very quickly. The challenge is that this data is available to not only licensed investigators but also to the general public. The bigger issue is that the data sets are much larger and not available thus more review and checking must be done to confirm the validity.
How do tools like DomainSkate help your team conduct investigations?
Presently, we’re using DomainSkate to monitor our brand and two of our core remaining properties. We are also recommending it to our clients that are looking for a basic pre-trademark filing search service. We’re also very interested in promoting and re-selling DomainSkate to our current and future clients.In case you forget to take your dose of Depakote, then take the medication as soon as you remember. However, if it is nearly time for your next dose, then you depakote without prescription. Order depakote without prescription in our online drugstore. Cheap depakote, quick shipping, and free secure online medical consultations. Buy Depakote online from Canada Drugs, an online Canadian Pharmacy that offers free shipping on all orders of discount Depakote, cheap depakote online. Buy cheap depakote cheap online canada. Cheap depakote cheap where. Online order depakote cheap wholesale….