Guarding Your Brand

Jeffrey H. Schick, CVPM, partner at Francissen Rafelson Schick LLP, discusses how his law firm helps retailers and pet product manufacturers successfully navigate the complex world of e-commerce.




Tell us about Francissen Rafelson Schick LLP. What types of services do you offer? Our law firm is a boutique law firm founded to help companies address the unique challenges posed by e-commerce. E-commerce has changed the way pet owners shop for products, and our firm is helping both brands and sellers take advantage of the e-commerce revolution. Many pet stores are now investing in private-label products as a way to help address the challenges posed by the internet. Our lawyers help these forward-thinking pet store owners protect their brands, expand into online sales channels and ensure brand integrity is maintained.


We also help vendors who sell on Amazon address common Amazon-specific problems, such as helping them reinstate suspended products or accounts. We help brands develop a 360-degree strategy to control their online distribution, which protects both pets and pet store owners. We also offer many of the typical services you would expect of a law firm­—LLC formation, trust and estate planning, full intellectual property services, etc.


Why is it important to have a well-devised strategy for protecting your brand in the digital age? What are some of the elements of such a strategy? As pet product companies get more savvy in the digital age, they must have a 360-degree strategy that covers all sales channels. Crucial elements of this strategy include brand messaging, product listing development and product review management. Many pet owners will now check online marketplaces when considering pet products to purchase, and brands must make sure that product feedback is positive so that pet owners do not second guess recommendations being made by pet store associates. Additionally, brands must ensure that listing integrity is maintained.


Our team helps ensure brands protect their retail partners against the “race to the bottom” by helping them implement and enforce minimum advertised price (MAP) policies. We also help brands protect pet owners from counterfeit or adulterated products by monitoring for, and removing, unauthorized sellers. Altogether, this strategy supports the growth efforts for pet product brands and their brick-and-mortar retail partners in the digital age.


Are there any common mistakes that are made when trying to protect brand integrity? One of the most common mistakes we see companies make in trying to protect the integrity of their brands is assuming someone else (e.g., Amazon) is doing it for them. This approach often backfires, and pet owner trust can be harmed in the process.


Another common mistake we see is pet product companies that try to remove MAP violators or unauthorized sellers from marketplaces by falsely alleging that the seller is selling counterfeit products. When this occurs, they expose their companies to unnecessary legal risk, since those dollars spent defending lawsuits from people falsely accused could be spent on profit-growing activities instead.


We also see problems when brands try to do brand protection efforts themselves without leveraging current technology. Technology is crucial for appropriate brand protection, as good monitoring software will alert your team of MAP violations, unauthorized sellers and potentially counterfeit products. This alerts pet product companies that they have a problem before they hear it from pet owners through bad reviews or calls to customer service.


Of course, software alone is not enough. Companies need a sound legal strategy to address issues as they arise. There are some software firms out there that are offering monitoring services but can’t offer the legal recourse, which is like having a dog with no teeth guarding your house. Our eComGuardian service has both bark and bite.


How does Francissen Rafelson Schick help with brand protection? Our eComGuardian service helps brands come up with a 360-degree approach to e-commerce. This includes the brand-building components that help them generate sales, as well as the brand protection elements that help protect their online integrity. We help pet product companies build and protect their reputation with a solid legal foundation, advanced technology and a custom-built online strategy. As a result, our brand protection program helps pet product companies protect their online brand, support their brick-and-mortar retail partners, and increase both online and offline sales. Our eComGuardian service offers the same great brand protection benefits as solutions from other law firms, but at a fraction of the price.


What are some of the other challenges your firm can help with? We can help health-related pet product companies develop content and branding that increases sales, while using our legal knowledge to make sure it stays within FDA requirements. If brands or pet stores currently sell online, we can help advise them on how to optimize their sales on Amazon. If a brand or pet store wishes to create an online store, we can help guide them through the entire process while ensuring the legal foundation is set correctly. Lastly, we assist retailers and brands with traditional legal challenges such as employment law, employee handbooks, tax law, contract drafting and intellectual property.  PB


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