Last fall, one of my new financial services clients asked if BrandProtect could provide them with information about the web presence of their Mortgage Loan Officers, also known as MLO’s. As you can probably surmise, MLO’s are the lifeblood of many financial organizations, and the first impression prospective clients may glean about a bank/trust company etc. is how their employees are presented on the web.
A couple of days ago I filed a Notice of False profile with LinkedIn (operator of a professional networking site with 259 million members) because a fake member account had been set up involving one of my financial clients. The perpetrator’s profile indicated that “she” was a company branch manager, and she was sending out LinkedIn invites to her “co-workers” at the financial institution. The profile should have screamed “a fake” to experienced users of the site. Some tell-tale signs were that the profile was bare bones, with only my client listed as an employer (along with the presence of the company logo), and the image of the individual on the page looked like a robot. I received a quick response back from LinkedIn saying they HAD begun processing the complaint, but that it may take some time to process. Last week the news was full of articles stating that LinkedIn had sued hackers over the creation of thousands of fake accounts. The hackers’ objective was to tap into legitimate member profiles (which they did at apparently a rate of hundreds of thousands of profiles each day) where they could glean a plethora of personal information. At this point the identity of the hackers is unknown, and subpoenas are being served on Amazon Web Services, the cloud platform used to create the fake accounts, in an attempt to unmask them.
The scheme was explained in an article published by Bloomberg on January 7th which stated “hackers using automated software created thousands of fake member accounts and copied data from actual member profile pages.” The article goes on to say “the practice, known as data “scraping,” violates LinkedIn’s user agreements and federal and state computer fraud laws, the company said in a complaint filed yesterday against the unknown hackers in federal court in San Francisco. It has also strained and disrupted the company’s network computers and threatens to degrade the value of LinkedIn Recruiter, a fee-based service used by Fortune 100 companies that’s one of the company’s fastest-growing offerings, according to the complaint”.
There was a very interesting article published in the World Intellectual Property Review that focused on a study conducted by the OHIM and the EPO, detailing the contribution of industries that have a “higher than average use of IP rights” to the economy in the EU.
It seems like the WHOIS issue was put on the back burner for the last couple of years at ICANN, while issues surrounding the introduction of the new gTLD’s moved to the forefront. The WHOIS has always been important to me, as I rely on the information provided to deliver notifications to infractors concerning trademark infringement, cyber squatting and counterfeiting incidents. The current WHOIS system is, of course, rife with inaccuracies, with many domain owners hiding behind privacy protection features provided by the registrars as well. I’d always held out hope for a requirement for a thick WHOIS, with accurate registrant information, for all gTLD registries.
On March 7–8, 2013, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA was the epicenter for IP practitioners seeking clarity and actionable advice in the areas of global brand portfolio management, enforcement in social media, and opportunities and challenges in the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) landscape. Some 177 participants from around the globe braved blustery conditions to attend nine fast-paced sessions held over two days.
Along with a fresh near year, we are seeing a fresh new protection on the formerly precarious practice of employees posting their comments about their employers’ activities on social media sites - under certain conditions.
One of the most interesting rulings I’ve read about recently was made a couple of weeks ago in California, where a federal judge quashed Home Depot's attempt to access all images and posts made by a former employee via a variety of social media platforms over the course of seven years. The poster, a former Home Depot employee, had sued the retail giant over a claim of termination due to unlawful discrimination. Briefly, Home Depot stated they wanted access to the accounts in order to establish the mental state of the ex-employee. Home Depot was granted access to some information – but it was limited to posts concerning her job only. Although the judge ruled the original demand by Home Depot was too broad, their startling request will be of no surprise to readers of my blog posts, who may recall that back in March of 2011 I reported (Facebook Password Shocker) incidents of a similar nature:
The International Trademark Association (INTA) has published their September 15, 2012 bulletin and we are proud to say our very own Rosemary Brkopac, Account Manager here at BrandProtect and Co-Chair of the INTA Bulletin Association News Subcommittee, has provided them with a spotlight article focusing on the INTA Bulleting Committee.