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Software Wire

July 14, 1998

A service to detect unauthorized use of company names, trademarked
phrases and libelous statements in cyberspace.

The Internet is a legal battlefield these days over copyright issues. In May this year the Senate approved the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a bill that would implement two international copyright treaties adopted in 1996 by the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization. The treaties cover property rights over written material, sound recordings and software in the online community and, in many cases, restrict access to private use of copyright protected materials online.

"Internet users think nothing of downloading a photo and sending it as an e-mail attachment or greeting to a friend or colleague with a few keystrokes. Others link directly to intellectual property online," says Michael Kessler whose firm Kessler & Associates investigates online theft of licensed copyrights and trademarks.

"Soon consumers may have to adjust to a pay-per-view online environment and companies will have to be diligent in applying protections and monitoring use."

To assist companies and their legal representatives in protecting intellectual assets, Kessler & Associates uses a new proprietary program they have developed called Web.Sweep. Web.Sweep detects unauthorized uses of company names, essential phrases and can detect libelous statements made by competitors or disgruntled customers. Web.Sweep searches the entire World Wide Web including Usenet, commercial online services, newsgroups and discussion lists.

Web.Sweep is more advanced than online search engines because using the supplied word or phrase, it returns a Web address plus up to 50 words of text showing the exact context of the use in question. Web.Sweep virtually eliminates the need to click through to each of the individual sites or discussion list archives to evaluate the use.

"If a competitor is bashing a company or its product, Web.Sweep will return the exact language as written by that person. Cease & Desist letters can be issued by Kessler or an attorney can follow through with legal action if warranted," says Kessler. Web.Sweep can make daily or monthly periodic checks on appropriate uses of intellectual property, and even check prices of manufactured goods to verify that terms of sales agreements are being followed.

According to Kessler, one recent sweep detected unfair marketing practices by a home product merchandising company's competitor. He says publishing companies use Web.Sweep to monitor unauthorized redistribution of articles and trademarks. Wholesale and manufacturing companies sweep for online vendors selling their products at discounts not in accordance with the terms of their sales agreements.

Web.Sweep reports are published online with password protection enabled for viewing by clients. Each use of the search criteria is numbered with a hyperlink to the site where the use has been appropriated.

"A company's presence on the Web affords fast access to its intellectual property and brand identity including: copyrights, trademarks, trade dress, service marks and licensed properties," says Kessler. "On the Internet everyone's a publisher, company logos are stolen, reputations and products are easily libeled and, in most cases, the company's executives are not aware of it. On the plus side technology now enables investigators to follow what is sometimes a nicely laid out e-trail which didn't exist in the past."

For more information about Web.Sweep or to discuss issues related to Intellectual Property Theft online direct queries and interview requests to Mr. Kessler.

Author - Jennifer L. Hulls

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