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Friday 21 August 2020

Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo

[Interview] How does Mercado Libre deal with online IP infringements?

 was pleased to interview Juan Cichero, Head of Brand Protection at Mercado Libre (MELI). 

Juan conversed about the Brand Protection Program (including the machine learning technologies used to detect infringing ads), the agreements signed with some organizations and whether there is an increase in the number of complaints filed to report IPR infringements in light of the pandemic.

1. Recently, Mercado Libre released the report "E-commerce: consumer habits evolution, in times of COVID-19". According to the stats, there was significant growth in online shopping, which had an impact on the number of new and recovered buyers. In this sense, is there a similar increase in the number of complaints filed to report IPR infringements?

No, we have not seen a substantial growth concerning the number of complaints submitted since the pandemic started. 

2. Would you please share some stats regarding the most frequent complaints submitted concerning countries, categories of products and infringement types? 

The most frequent infringement types are copyright and trademark infringements, specifically counterfeit and piracy. Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina are the three markets in the region with more complaints filed. Finally, the categories of products most affected are consumer electronics, apparel, footwear, and cosmetics. 

3. The IPPP (Intellectual Property Protection Program) was renewed last year. How would you summarize the new features of the Brand Protection Program (BPP)? 

Indeed. At the end of 2019, we re-launched our program, including a rebranding from IPPP to BPP (Brand Protection Program), aiming at being closer to brand owners. 

Mercado Libre's BPP main features are the following: 
  • The reporting tool is available in the 18 countries in which Mercado Libre operates. 
  • One single account to monitor and report allegedly infringing listings. 
  • Free of charge
  • Allow members to enroll and protect their full IP portfolio, including trademarks, copyrights, patents, industrial models, and designs. 
  • Notice & Takedown procedure with a counter-notice process after which the member decides whether to accept or not the response of the seller. 
  • Real-time search in all our sites and the possibility to submit reports massively, with just a few clicks. 
  • Special filters and the possibility to search through various criteria that make the reporting experience easier and more efficient. 
  • Sellers audit to differentiate trustworthy and suspicious sellers. 
  • Create and share customized reports
  • Case management (counter-notice process) to track seller's responses. 
  • Several profiles in the same account. 
  • Available in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese
Additionally, we launched a new landing page for the BPP in which IPRs owners can find information concerning the benefits of the program and the enforcement tool, how to enroll in the program, our terms and conditions, a Q&A session and finally, a direct link to access the reporting tool. The landing page also is available in the three languages. 

4. Would you please tell us about the resources used by Mercado Libre to detect IP infringements?

Fighting against counterfeit and piracy entails investing more on human and technological resources. In this sense, MELI currently has a team made up of 9 (nine) different areas working together towards this goal. Furthermore, we constantly invest in new machine learning technologies and methodologies to detect potential infringing ads. 

Therefore, in addition to the reporting tool, -and with the help of sophisticated machine learning models-, MELI has recently developed proactive measures in order to improve the detection methods of allegedly infringing listings, that learn from reports made by IP owners through the BPP and remove similar listings that the brand owner may not have detected. Once we identify another listing containing the same infringement detected by the brand owner, it is automatically removed from our platform

5. Would you please provide a brief overview of the notice and takedown procedure carried out through the BPP? 

The Notice and Takedown procedure through the BPP can be summarized in the following steps: 
  1. The member of the BPP searches for allegedly infringing listings by using the search engine of the reporting tool. 
  2. The member marks the listing(s) as suspicious and selects the type of infringement (i.e. counterfeit, trademark infringement, copyright, etc.) and submits the report. 
  3. The allegedly infringing listing is paused (not available in the platform). 
  4. The seller receives the member's report with instructions on how to reply to the claim. The seller has 4 four days to submit their counter-notice. If he/she fails to respond within those four days, the listing is automatically permanently removed. 
  5. If the seller replies within those four days (can include pictures of the product, invoices, receipts, or any other documentation), the member has four days to either confirm or dismiss the claim:
  • If the member accepts the arguments of the seller (or fails to reply within those four days), the claim is dismissed, and the listing is reinstated. 
  • If the member does not accept the documentation or the arguments submitted by the seller, the listing is permanently removed from the marketplace, and the seller is analyzed by Mercado Libre to determine whether a measure should be applied. 

6. What are the consequences of placing infringing listings? 

For each successful report or proactive detection, the system triggers a behaviour seller analysis to determine whether a measure to the seller applies or not. The measures could be a warning notice, a temporary suspension of the account and finally, the permanent shutdown of the account from the marketplace. 

We focus our efforts in analyzing the most descriptive variables of sellers, that can correlate with the chance of selling counterfeit items. Once we detect a suspicious seller, various ratios are calculated so we can ban them. Furthermore, we ban all the rest of the duplicate accounts that they might have. After that, we make our re-registration process harder for all those sellers who have strong relations with those accounts that had been banned before. 

7. How would you describe the collaboration between Mercado Libre and brand owners in light of the BPP's goals? 

One of the main goals of the BPP is to foster collaboration and partnership with brand owners. We are working very closely with brand owners by providing them with enforcement tools to make sure their IP rights are protected from bad actors. 

In many cases, brand owners also give training to our internal teams to learn more about their products to be vigilant about the presence of allegedly infringing listings in our marketplace. We also provide members with a direct channel of communication with our support team to make sure their claims or concerns are duly solved. For new members, we also offer personalized support during the enrollment process, and we provide them with a walkthrough so they can learn about the main features of the reporting tool. 

So far, the feedback has been very positive, and we are constantly receiving new enrollment requests. It is important to stress that any IP owner (or their representative) can enroll in our BPP by filling a simple enrollment form and submitting the necessary documents (such as trademark registration certificates) based on the member's needs. 

8. Recently, Mercado Libre signed an agreement with INDECOPI for the protection of IPRs in the digital environment, would you please tell us a little about the MoU?

Indeed. We have recently signed a cooperation agreement with INDECOPI for the protection of the IPRs owned by the Peruvian State and the rights of any IP owner registered before INDECOPI. We have provided INDECOPI with our monitoring and reporting tool, but unfortunately, due to the current situation of COVID-19 lockdown, some aspects of the joined efforts had to be delayed. However, we trust that with the normalization of the INDECOPI procedures, the enforcement will resume. Currently, other cooperation agreements are under negotiation. 

9. Are there similar agreements signed by Mercado Libre with other IP Offices or organizations for the protection of IPRs?

We have signed collaboration agreements with different authorities, chambers, and associations from all over the region, focusing on health, tax, environmental and intellectual property matters. Regarding IPRs, and in addition to the agreement with INDECOPI, we have signed agreements with other stakeholders such as the Argentinian Book Chamber (CAL), the Colombian Book Chamber, the Argentine Chamber of Phonograms and Videograms Producers (CAPIF), the Brazilian Film Agency (ANCINE-Brazil) and National Association of Uruguayan Broadcasters (ANDEBU-Uruguay). Currently, other agreements are under negotiation. 

10. What are the next steps Mercado Libre will take to cope with online IPRs infringements? 

At Mercado Libre, we are in constant evolution, and the BPP is not the exception. In this sense, and thanks to the feedback received from our members, we are continuously introducing enhancements to our online reporting tool to ensure the best experience to our members when monitoring and reporting allegedly infringing listings. Additionally, we continue working on our proactive measures to ensure we combine both efforts to keep the marketplace free of counterfeit and pirated goods. 

We encourage all brand owners who would like to protect their IP assets, to join us by enrolling in our Brand Protection Program at www.brandprotectionprogram.com and help us make the marketplace a safer place for their consumers. 

IPTango would like to express our gratitude to Juan Cichero, Head of Brand Protection at Mercado Libre, for the interview. 

Credit: the image is courtesy of Mercado Libre.

Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo

Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo