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IP Actually: Understanding the World of Intellectual Property on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Friday marked the traditional start of the shopping season in the lead-up to Christmas – originally an American concept, Black Friday has, in recent decades, reached retail industries around the globe to mark an opportunity to market goods.

Although many may not be aware of it, shoppers are met with a wealth of Intellectual Property as they browse the shelves for gifts for loved ones…

An imaginative display in the shop window lures you in. Inside lies a host of experiences to facilitate pleasant and comfortable shopping. Concept stores, a term coined to encapsulate characteristic environments in which purchasing processes operate, have become a way for customers to recognize brands by their shop features alone. They can include layout, lighting, music – anything which demonstrates the creative, artistic and personal imprint of the store – and can be protected by various intellectual property rights. However, since it seems that COVID is fast becoming the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it’s hard to tell how much brick-and-mortar retail experiences we’ll be having this year.

You then walk into a sports store and are hit with an army of different products with familiar brand name and labels, such as the Nike tick or the Adidas stripes, which have occupied spaces on those shelves for decades. All these products have registered trademarks to distinguish them from competitors and protect them from counterfeit manufacturers. Having been reassured of the quality and origin of the product, promised by its trademark, you make the purchase. 

You then hit the furniture shop for your next Black Friday purchase. We live at a time of a pandemic after all – we could all do with a new couch or TV stand to facilitate lengthy Netflix binges. Here, you see products which once started out as a prototype and are now fully-fledged, unique designs, registered to protect their appearance and attributes from being copied, before hitting the market. A registered design application can be used to protect not just the shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation of a product, but also its texture and materials used.

Having found suitable furniture to enjoy the Christmas telly, you now make your way towards the pharmacy for some stocking fillers.

Here, you might find a variety of similar yet innovative products. You browse the many face masks on offer – the one which stands out to you claims that it has ‘patented’ anti-ageing technology – it’s technical functionality is protected so that it can’t be replicated.

Of course, these are just some brief examples – many products, including the ones listed above, will be protected by a variety of types of IP. But this year, as it begins to look a lot like Christmas, you may have a slightly different perspective on the protections afforded to your gifts under the tree.

With most countries around the world on lockdown due to COVID, most Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers will be buying their products online this year.

Whilst shopping online from the comfort of your living room does protect you from getting ill, it might not protect you from accidentally buying counterfeited products. Beware of the coupon scams, fake accounts and hashtag hijacking and make sure to buy only from reputable stores, those whose trademark and domain name you know are real and secure.


Article written by: Deborah Tastiel and Syvanne Aloni

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