A brand protection company is calling on Google, Bing, Baidu, and Yandex to step up and remove links to web sites known to routinely infringe trademarks and sell counterfeit goods.
Research from Incopro, released Monday, found that up to 60% of search query results returned by engines lead consumers to websites that sell fake and possibly dangerous goods.
The research also aims to make brands aware that about 3,000 consumers purchased fake and harmful products during this research period from sites by using organic search, as estimated by Incopro, using data from SimiWeb and a conservative conversion rate of 2.5%.
The findings suggest Google puts consumers at risk of buying fake electronics and pharmaceutical products by glossing over web sites known to regularly feature counterfeit goods.
“Google appears to be exploiting a loophole in the law which means that search engines are not obliged to remove links to websites displaying items that infringe intellectual property rights or trademarks,” according to the research.
Incopro analyzed search engine results in April, May, and June 2019 in pharmaceutical, automotive, children’s products, white goods and safety equipment to produce the study. It used software to search for brands or products, replicating the way consumers typically use the internet to find suppliers of specific goods.
The company said it routinely searches for these instances of brand misuse on behalf of the brands it works with. It has found millions of infringements taking place online daily. Some of those brands include Oreo, Dr. Martens, Trident, Halls, and belVita.
These infringements involve offering consumers fake products and services. The offers are made on well-established platforms and through web sites and social media.
Overall, the research found 26% of the potentially harmful web sites in the top three search results. Some 47.3% of traffic to these websites comes from consumers using search terms that specify a brand or particular product.
Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published in March 2019 estimates the value of trade in counterfeit goods at $509 billion. While this is the equivalent of 3.3% of world trade, consumer safety is the pressing concern, according to the report.
In the white goods sector, for example, a search for refrigerator filters using reference terms directed consumers toward a website selling counterfeit goods.
In the children’s products category, a third of the search results for a “Comotomo teether” featured potentially harmful products that misuse the company’s trademark. And in the pharmaceutical, six in 10 of Google’s first-page results following searches for the antibiotic Bactrim were for locations the study deemed unlawful.