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  • By: Juliane Rose Sun & Zinc Tan
  • May 13, 2021

Empowering Small Businesses Through Intellectual Property Protection

Adrian Goh is an authorised distributor of eco-friendly cleaning brand White Magic in Singapore and has been selling its products on LazMall, Southeast Asia’s largest virtual mall, for over four years. At the height of the pandemic last March, as more people turned to eCommerce, he began to notice more counterfeit White Magic products appearing online, which impacted his business as a direct result.

“There was a period of time when we saw that there was quite a fair bit of products carrying our brand name,” Goh said. He took steps to report the unauthorised sellers and counterfeit products, which included bamboo towels, multi-purpose melamine sponges, free-hand mop sets and accessories, to Lazada’s dedicated intellectual property rights protection team. Almost immediately, he saw how it helped his business bounce back.

“After we reported the counterfeit products and got them progressively removed, we actually saw a significant increase in our sales, somewhere close to 30%. Because when the counterfeits are removed, the buyers will go back to buying the original brands.”

Counterfeiters hurt businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises such as Goh’s, since they undercut prices and undermine the quality of brands. According to Forbes, counterfeiting was the largest criminal enterprise in the world in 2018, and sales of counterfeit and pirated products is expected to grow to $2.8 trillion by 2022.

To raise awareness of how patents, copyright and trademark infringements can impact daily life, the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2000 established World Intellectual Property Day, which has gained more traction in recent years due to the proliferation of online commerce and brands’ increased need to safeguard their intellectual property rights as a result.

For this year’s World IP Day, which happened on April 26, the theme focused on the importance of helping SMEs combat counterfeiters. In a video message for the event, WIPO Director General Daren Tang highlighted that SMEs account for 90% of companies in the world and 70% of global employment.

“SMEs are the engines, the unsung heroes of our economy. And yet for many of them, there is still a lack of knowledge about how IP can help them translate their ideas into products, and how IP can be a powerful tool for them to not just survive, but to also compete and grow,” he said.

“This year’s World IP Day reflects our mission to support SMEs,” said Alan Chan, Lazada’s chief risk officer. “It is why we are constantly collaborating with rights owners, customers and platforms to raise the bar on IP protection.”

Committed to protecting IP and product authenticity, Lazada is the first and currently only Southeast Asian eCommerce company with a dedicated Intellectual Property Rights Protection Team. The team serves three main functions: managing the system for reporting and taking down listings that infringe upon IP, using AI algorithms to automatically detect and remove suspected counterfeit listings and working with various stakeholders to advance protection for rights holders. The eCommerce giant’s IPR protection programme also includes an Intellectual Property Protection Platform – an easy-to-use portal for rights holders to submit takedown requests and also find useful resources. The platform now has more than 1,000 registered users, and, thanks to Lazada’s ever-improving technology, the average time needed to process a takedown request dropped by 35% between 2019 and 2020.

“Using data and technology, we strive to set the industry standards of what IP protection should be and bring more ideas to market,” Chan said.

For SMEs like Goh’s, these efforts by Lazada have helped ensure a safe and secure space that empowers businesses to reach their full potential.

“Lazada has put in quite a lot of effort into IP protection as opposed to other platforms,” Goh said. “It has placed more emphasis in this area to help protect sellers’ rights and benefits.”

Juliane Rose Sun is a manager in Lazada’s security risks and enterprise intelligence team, which works closely with brands to safeguard their intellectual property rights. Zinc Tan also works in the same team and supports the development of communication assets.

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