Protecting Your Brand

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - One of the most important issues in the adult industry is how companies can protect their brands. Connor Young moderated the Internext panel discussion "Protecting Your Brand," which featured adult and mainstream business attorneys.

An established brand name is important because it shows that a company has effectively penetrated the market, the panel said, so a company must maintain its brand's integrity and monitor potentially negative misrepresentations.

"Having a unique identifier is an important part of establishing a brand," attorney Rob Apgood said. "Other, more established brands are powerful because they are widely known and properly protected."

Apgood, who focuses on technology issues at the federal level in civil and criminal courts, spoke about the importance of establishing a brand name and monitoring it for potential pirates, fraudsters, hackers and trademark abusers. "Piracy of your brand confuses consumers by making them think the inferior knock-off is associated with you and your brand," he said. "Monitor your affiliates, make sure you watch for red flags, look for complaints about mass e-mailing, spamming [or] anything that might be an indication of illicit activity."

Tim Henning, compliance director for the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), suggested taking an active approach. "Be proactive, monitor the black list, post etiquettes on your website that clearly explain why and when you send out e-mails, et cetera, and the standard operating procedures in place," he said. "If you have a problem, send out a PR. Contact people; let them know."

Gregory A. Piccionelli, co-founder of Piccionelli and Sarno, said many entrepreneurs simply are unaware of the importance of creating brands and protecting them with trademarks.

"You can't just trademark a brand; you have to carefully monitor it, as well," he said. "Only associate with other quality brands. Brand protection, in addition to trademarking or copyrighting, is the only way to make sure your content and company is associated with the type of image you want it to have."

"Don't be roped in by discount providers who offer inferior protection," Henning said. "Don't be cheap. Some of the larger domain providers do offer discounts, so look into how long they have been in existence, and see if there has been any negative press associated with them."

Piccionelli and Apgood both advocate employing the right attorney and copyrighting all material. Trademarking is a strong way to protect your rights, Piccionelli said, but it contains many unforeseeable trapdoors not found in copyrighting. "Do a trademark search before you invest too much time in a brand to see if someone else occupies the area or has the mark," he said. "Run it past your attorney - always."

The panelists also advised company owners to monitor affiliates and keep track of how they represent the company and its brand. Make sure they don't tarnish the company's name or offer illegal services, the panelists said, adding that affiliates should be urged to monitor where their traffic is coming from.