Brand Abuse, Sales Abuse

How to Fight Internet Piracy

By Matheus G. Loyola on

The arena

It’s true that no sector is immune to piracy. In any industry, there are products or brands that can end up in parallel markets. That’s why no company is totally protected against illegal sales. The illicit use of a company’s intellectual property is extremely damaging to a company and to its consumers. Counterfeits may be of poor quality, undermining the consumer’s experience and failing to deliver the value that the genuine brand usually offers.

With the growth of the digital market, counterfeit products have gained new sales channels. If controlling piracy in physical commerce can sometimes be difficult, imagine how much more challenging it is in a digital environment, wherein company brands are affected by massive supplies of fake products.

In this arena, it is up to the company owning the brand to take a stance in regulating the sales of its products, ensuring that the consumer, regardless of the shopping platform, purchases an original product that reflects the quality used in its production.


Actions against digital piracy

There are several methods a company can use to monitor the merchandising of its products. One of these is manual verification, where an employee or a team looks for the company’s ads in online sales channels. Another way to address the problem is to employ a digital risk monitoring tool, to automate the process.

At the beginning of the project, it’s important to map out online sales platforms, known as marketplaces. And they are everywhere, from Amazon and eBay to sites with smaller audiences. Social networks like Facebook and Instagram have also developed their platform’s own sales channels.

If you choose to do the monitoring with an internal team, the employees will have a very heavy workload in manually searching for product advertising related to your brand. An employee with a good understanding of the market will be able to find, evaluate and classify an average of 120 advertisements per day.

We can use as an example a company in the sports clothing industry that is a customer of Axur, and that has to deal with an average of 3,734 monthly occurrences of fake online products. Considering the volume of cases related to the brand and the efficiency level of an internal employee, a minimum of two full-time company employees dedicated exclusively to this work would be necessary.

A large part of this manual work was automated through Axur’s digital risk protection platform, saving about 80% of the manpower that would have been required of an internal digital risk team. This way, the company’s analysts are able to save many work hours or perhaps meet the demand with smaller teams.


Detecting pirated products

In order to facilitate the detection of illicit sales, suspicious patterns must be detected in those ads. For that, information related to each advertisement must be collected, such as: URL, product name, price and the quantity available, among other data.

In order to optimize the search and get more efficient results, keywords are used that filter the content to be analyzed. Words related to illegal sales are used, commonly detected in online sales—for example, similar, parallel, replica, outlet, retail and multi-brand. The volume of content found is thus reduced to hundreds of results per search.

An offer must also be subjected to a thorough validation procedure to find out if it represents a pirated product. It is therefore important to be attentive to various details in the advertisements found after filtering, for example:

  • Price: A product for sale at a price that is very different than that normally offered in formal commerce may be a sign that the item is fake.
  • Sales channel used: As a rule, original or quality products are not found on suspicious sales channels or sold on social networks.
  • Logo: Fake products often do not have realistic logos; they may be distorted and/or have incorrect or outdated typefaces and design.
  • Product photo: Generic images or those replicated from another website are commonly used to depict a fake product.
  • Stock: Rarely do sellers have an ample stock of a given piece of clothing, with all sizes and colors. When the advertiser promises that, it could be a sign that the item is fake.


Removing illegal sales

After going through the collection and analysis steps, and once the information related to a malicious advertisement is collected, contact must be made with the marketplace in question. Generally, this contact occurs through a specific channel, dedicated to this kind of complaint. The complainant will need to present the necessary data and request removal of the advertisement. Then the progress of the request will need to be followed until the ad is removed. This must be done for each advertisement, individually, and verification may be necessary several times before there is confirmation that the procedure was successful.

Each sales channel has its own procedure for removing content. The incident response teams at some channels can take weeks or even months to remove an advertisement if a complaint is outside the standards required. That’s why it is important to know each marketplace and what the correct procedures are in each case.

Removing illegal advertisements can be a laborious and delicate action. The best way to ensure high productivity in your team of analysts is to have them direct their attention to the most relevant content.


Digital Risk Protection platforms can apply know-how gained from years of experience in removing illegal content. All that experience builds confidence in the choice of suppliers as well as in the battle against threats to your business.



Eduardo Schultze, Coordenador do CSIRT da Axur, formado em Segurança da Informação pela UNISINOS – Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos. Trabalha desde 2010 com fraudes envolvendo o mercado brasileiro, principalmente Phishing e Malware


Matheus G. Loyola

Undergraduate in Audiovisual Production, specialized in Marketing and also a photographer. I worked in all those areas at Axur, and I have now found myself (and my love) as a member of the Sales team.