Conkle Firm Attorneys Help Clients at Cosmoprof Asia 2023

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After a three-year hiatus, Cosmoprof Asia 2023 returned to its hometown Hong Kong for its 26th annual show, and Conkle, Kremer & Engel was at the leading B2B beauty event in the Asia-Pacific region. CK&E attorneys John Conkle and Chelsea Bernard attended to assist clients, meet prospective clients and see all of the latest innovative products, services and technologies available in the beauty industry.

In between our attorneys assisting beauty industry participants with acquiring distribution partners and counseling brand protection and regulatory compliance, they visited each of the halls and attended educational seminars to discover the newest and most innovative beauty products from all around the world.

Based on the increase in attendance from 2019, it was clear that everyone was excited to be back. More than 2,400 exhibitors from 44 countries and regions showcased their cutting edge products and services to 60,000 attendees. The impressive show occupied three massive exhibition halls, which included cosmetics and toiletries with a special natural and organic showcase, as well as nail and accessories, hair and beauty salon and spa products and services.

This year, Cosmoprof Asia strongly focused on sustainability and its impact on beauty habits, highlighting the event’s dedication to fostering positive change within the beauty and cosmetic industry. Our attorneys noted the strong industry trend toward “greentech.” Greentech utilizes only stem cells from plants, minimizing the environmental impact as entire plants no longer need to be harvested, and produces extremely efficient active ingredients for cosmetic products. Not all surprisingly, the seminar noted that the clean beauty market is projected to grow and reach an approximate $15.3 billion by 2032.

Similarly, analysis of exhibitors’ products and key trends spotlighted epidermal growth factors (“EGF”) which are polypeptides that can be derived from plant cells and are said to signal cells to boost collagen and elastin production. One of the products highlighted that features EGF was Dermaesthetics’ “UV Shield: EGF FGF DNA Sun Protection.” CK&E attorneys enjoyed speaking with Lincoln Lee, Director of Global Operations at Dermaesthetics, about their innovative products and ways to strengthen their brand protection as they expand their global business.  As well, environment sustainability and organic chemistry come first for Innersense Organic Beauty, a long time client of CK&E that exhibited their hair care products at Cosmoprof Asia and met with interested parties non-stop. Their message is simple yet noteworthy, to provide “Clean chemistry, radical transparency and a commitment to the environment,” by using formulas made with non-GMO, minimally processed ingredients from nature, sustainable packaging made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials and annual donations of 1% of their sales to environmental causes.

As always, CK&E attorneys look forward to attending Cosmoprof and other industry events in the future, to continue to help our clients, meet future clients, and stay up to date on personal care and beauty trends and evolving business needs.  Our attorneys continue to pride themselves on keeping abreast of industry developments to assist our clients, from startups to mature businesses, to grow and protect their brands and businesses in domestic and international markets.

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The Conkle Firm Welcomes Kelly Peterson, Loyola Law School Class of 2023

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Conkle, Kremer & Engel congratulates Kelly Peterson on her recent graduation from Loyola Law School. After completing her second year of school, Kelly worked as a summer associate at CK&E and continued to work as a law clerk with the firm until she began her bar review studies after graduation. While at Loyola, Kelly was on the board of the Women in Entertainment Law Society, served as a production editor on Loyola’s Entertainment Law Review, and volunteered at a non-profit (PESA) to help minors participate in diversion programs.

Before entering law school, Kelly graduated from The University of Michigan with a degree in Philosophy and a minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change. Kelly has a passion for intellectual property law and has experience working across various legal fields, including copyright law, trademark law, environmental law, contract law, and mass tort litigation.

We are very pleased that Kelly will be joining CK&E in September while awaiting results of the bar exam.

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The Conkle Firm Returns to Cosmoprof Bologna

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Conkle Kremer & Engel returned to attend Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna for 2023.  Beauty’s biggest trade show was back in full swing and CK&E attorneys Mark Kremer and Amanda Washton attended to help clients, meet new clients, and see all of the latest innovations.

Amanda Washton at Cosmoprof Bologna 2023

It was easy to see why Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna is considered to be the leading worldwide event for the professional beauty sector. In 2023, over 2,984 exhibiting companies from more than 64 countries participated.  More than 250,000 visitors from 153 countries chose to attend Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna as an essential time for their business.  CK&E attorneys were based at the California Trade Alliance’s California Pavilion, at which CK&E sponsored a meeting room for advice to be given and deals to be made.  CK&E also provided food and wine to refresh the happy exhibitors.  The personal care products industry in California is so large and established that California is still the only state in the U.S. to sponsor its own pavilion, nestled among the many country pavilions (including the U.S. Pavilion).

When not helping clients in their booths or at the meeting room, CK&E attorneys enjoyed visiting the specialty Cosmoprof sections in the COSMO Perfumery & Cosmetics and the COSMO Hair, Nail, and Beauty Salon sections of the show.  They met manufacturers and distributors (large and small), beauty consultants and professionals throughout the world, to add to the firm’s growing network of beauty industry contacts.

Makeup and skincare products that focused on sustainability and inclusivity were highlighted at the show.  Owing to consumers’ increasing environmental consciousness, use of biodegradable packaging represented a clear trend.  Inclusivity was everywhere with a clear influx of gender-neutral lines as well as representation of products specifically designed for all races, ethnicities and ages.  In fact, the Cosmo Trends portion of the show presented products specifically focused on “menopause wellness.”  It is clear that the cosmetics and beauty industry is leading the way in approaching and “celebrating otherness,” which was the theme of the CosmoTrends exhibit at the show.Moroccanoil Show at Cosmoprof Bologna 2023

CK&E attorneys look forward to attending Cosmoprof and other industry events in the future, to continue to help our clients, meet future clients, and stay up to date on personal care and beauty trends and evolving business needs.  Our attorneys continue to pride themselves on keeping abreast of industry developments to help our clients, from startups to mature businesses, to grow and protect their brands and businesses in domestic and international markets.

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Conkle Firm Attorneys Attend Cosmoprof North America 2021 – Yes, In Person

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The 2020 Cosmoprof North America show was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but (after some delay) the show went on for 2021. Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys Amanda Washton and Sherron Wiggins attended this year’s Cosmoprof North America show on August 29, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Attendance was lower than usual, of course, particularly in light of recent concerns about the Delta variant.  But the safety of all participants was paramount to the organizers and it showed.  The Cosmoprof attendees spread out and managed to fill the hall with enthusiasm while maintaining proper social distancing and appropriate masking.

Our attorneys visited the six specialty Cosmoprof sections, such as “Discover Green” featuring green, eco-friendly, clean, and organic products such as Orgaid facial sheet masks. Another notable section was “Tones of Beauty,” dedicated to beauty products for multicultural consumers such as Ceylon Skincare products by Anim Labs formulated to address skin issues that men, especially men of color, experience.

Sherron Wiggins and Amanda Washton at Cosmoprof NA 2021Our attorneys also spent time in the “Cosmo Trends” section of the show, where they reviewed product classes that have surged in popularity during the global COVID-19 pandemic. For example, skin barrier products designed to balance the skin’s microbiome and to kill pathogens gained considerable popularity in the market during the pandemic, likely due to increased consumer awareness and sensitivity to bacteria, micro-organisms, and viruses. As well, most of us have done more than a few Zoom meetings during the pandemic, and have had a chance to examine our appearance on video screens, perhaps more than we would have wished.  This fact was not missed by entrepreneurs who developed and promoted a variety of non-surgical treatments and devices for skin conditioning and application of beauty products. Examples included skin and under-eye serums, and skincare tools that apply LED, EMS, ultrasound, radio frequency, ion fusion, and sonic pulsation.

Makeup and skincare products that focused on overall skin health and a glowing appearance also gained popularity as consumers gradually ventured out to attend small gatherings of family and friends.  Many of these kinds of products were featured in the “Discovery Beauty” section of the show, presenting an array of “conscious beauty products,” such as Urban Secrets.  CBD-inclusive cosmetic products continued to increase in strength, this year warranting an entire dedicated section at Cosmoprof.  Finally, owing to consumers’ increasing environmental consciousness, use of biodegradable packaging represented a clear trend.

Whether virtually or in person, CK&E looks forward to attending Cosmoprof and other industry events in the future, to help us continue to help our clients, meet future clients, and stay up to date on personal care and beauty trends and evolving business needs.  Our attorneys pride themselves on keeping abreast of industry developments to help our clients, from entrepreneurs to mature businesses, grow and protect their brands and businesses.

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US Takes New Steps to Combat Counterfeit Products

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On January 31, 2020, the White House issued an executive order outlining several new steps to address the ongoing and growing issue of the sale of counterfeit goods through e-commerce platforms over the internet, which harms both manufacturers and sellers of authentic products and the consumers who purchase the fake (and sometimes physically harmful) products. Estimates show that the annual value of counterfeit goods traded internationally rose from $200 billion in 2005 to $509 billion in 2016. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports 27,599 shipment seizures stemming from intellectual property violations in fiscal year 2019. Those most commonly affected by the sale of counterfeit goods include the personal care, apparel, electronics, luxury goods, software, entertainment and media, and automotive industries.

Several agencies, including CBP, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Postal Service are involved in the anti-counterfeiting efforts. New steps include (1) the revocation or suspension of Importer of Record numbers for those caught importing counterfeit goods; (2) requirements for consigners, carriers, hub facilities, and customs brokers to notify CBP of any importers known to be dealing in counterfeit goods and to cease transacting with such parties, with increased scrutiny and penalties for noncompliance; (3) the creation of a task force between the CBP, DHS, and USPS in order to determine permissible ways to prevent and deter the transport of counterfeit goods through the postal system, including the targeting of particular international posts (for example, the Chinese postal system) for repeated violations; (4) the periodic publishing by DHS of information relating to seizures and violations; (5) DHS and CBP recommendations of best practices for e-commerce platforms and third-party marketplaces; and (6) the prioritization by Federal prosecutors of offenses involving counterfeiting or piracy.

Importantly, per DHS reports, CBP will “treat domestic warehouses and fulfillment centers,” like ones operated by e-commerce giant Amazon, “as the ultimate consignee for any good that has not been sold to a specific consumer at the time of its importation.” As such, e-commerce platforms that store violative products, even if those products are technically in the possession of third-party sellers while they are being stored, will have a “greater responsibility” to cooperate in the identification and removal of such products, and “greater liability” for failure to cooperate. This could potentially benefit private litigants as well – if e-commerce stores have a greater responsibility to inspect, identify, and address counterfeit products, the threshold for a finding of willful or knowing infringement, which can lead to damage multipliers and attorney fee awards, could be reduced. Even the prospect of such increased penalties can create powerful leverage for settlements beneficial to infringement plaintiffs.

Conkle, Kremer & Engel has extensive experience helping product manufacturers and distributors investigate and enforce their rights to stop and remedy counterfeiting, parallel importation, gray market and other trademark- and intellectual property-infringement claims. CK&E attorneys are well-versed in the careful initial steps that should be taken promptly when sales of illicit products are suspected. CK&E keeps abreast of the latest laws and techniques that permit manufacturers and distributors to identify, prevent, and report counterfeiters and other IP violators. Stay tuned for additional CK&E blog posts as we monitor important developments relating to e-commerce counterfeiting.

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The Conkle Firm Presents at Personal Care Product Council’s Emerging Issues Conference in Marina del Rey

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Zachary Page and Eric Engel being introduced for PCPC Emerging Issues Panel on Product Counterfeiting and Brand Protection

Conkle, Kremer & Engel attorneys Eric S. Engel and Zachary Page presented to beauty industry professionals on hot and developing legal issues in brand protection, grey market and product counterfeiting at the Personal Care Products Council’s November 20, 2019 Emerging Issues Conference. The Conference was held on the 10th Floor of the Marina del Rey Marriott, with a spectacular view over the nearby marina and beach.

Among the topics covered by Zach were issues of registering U.S. trademarks for CBD products, and other previously unregisterable brands. The 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com put new importance on registering important copyrights well in advance of their need for infringement claims, and Zach discussed the close relationship with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “DMCA Clock” to takedown infringing online publications. Trends toward false advertising claims based on “natural” and “organic” labeling were also discussed, as were the dramatic increase in medical claim class action and other lawsuits. Zach also briefed the gathered industry experts on the various issues that affect uses of models and others without adequate documentation of consent, which can raise serious right of publicity as well as copyright concerns.

Eric addressed grey market and counterfeiting case development, including the importance of creating “materially different” packaging for U.S. and foreign products. Simple and low-cost ways to help DHS/CBP protect brands against importation of foreign-labeled versions of their own products, as well as counterfeits, was outlined. Also outlined were cost-effective techniques such as recording trademarks online with CBP’s IPR e-Recordation system, Lever Rule Protection, providing CBP with effective Product Identification Training Guides (PITG), conducting IPR Webinars for CBP distribution, and posting e-Allegations online. On combating counterfeiting, Eric addressed Amazon.com specifically because it now accounts for more than half of U.S. online consumer sales, and more than half of Amazon’s online sales are on behalf of third parties in its “marketplace.” Amazon acknowledges no responsibility for sales in its marketplace, beyond closing seller accounts and refunding its customers’ money when they can show that they were sold counterfeit and defective products. Eric discussed the developments in Amazon’s selling and fulfillment practices and in the law of counterfeiting and products liability that suggest that Amazon’s currently-strong denials of responsibility for third party’s products and sales practices may be less compelling in coming years.

CK&E attorneys regularly give presentations to personal care product industry professionals to help them understand and proactively address the latest legal concerns that affect and can inhibit growth of their businesses.

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Making Your Mark in the Craft Beer Business, Part One – Identifying and Protecting Your Trademarks

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According to the Brewer’s Association there were over 6,000 craft breweries operating in the United States at the end of 2017. In an increasingly crowded market, how do you ensure that the craft beer consumer is able to distinguish your brewery from your competitors? You should begin by identifying your trademarks.

A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol or design that uniquely identifies the source of one company’s goods from those of other companies. While the law in the United States recognizes a broad range of “source identifiers” as trademarks, most companies focus their intellectual property protection efforts on brand names, slogans and logos. Especially at the early stages of your business, it is important to focus your protection efforts on the essential elements of your brand. For example, your brewery may have a dozen regular varieties of beer, plus several small release or seasonal brews throughout the year. Seeking trademark registrations for each of your beers may quickly deplete your legal budget, and so a more focused approach is usually the best course of action. For most breweries, their primary protection efforts should focus first on their brewery name and logos, and then on the names of one or two of their flagship beers.

In the United States, a brewery’s trademark rights arise at the time it starts using the mark in commerce. This means that the first person to begin using a trademark in connection with the sale of beer owns that mark, and may be able to prevent others from using confusingly similar marks on beer and beer-related goods and services. That is, a registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not necessary to own a trademark. However, these “common law” rights are limited in that they can only be applied to the geographic area in which you are selling your beer. Any business that is serious about protecting its brand should seriously consider applying for registration of the essential names and logos.

Some of the benefits that federal trademark registration provides to the trademark owner include:

(1) Preventing infringement problems before they begin by making your marks easy to find in a search of marks registered with the USPTO;

(2) Getting the USPTO to do a degree of enforcement on your behalf by preventing the registration of other marks found to be confusingly similar by the USPTO’s examiners;

(3) Giving you nationwide priority when your marks might otherwise be limited to the geographic area in which you are using the mark;

(4) Putting other companies on notice of your trademark rights so that they cannot claim that their subsequent use of your mark was in “good faith;”

(5) Creating a presumption of validity and ownership of your mark in the event that you need to sue another company for infringing your trademark rights;

(6) Providing the ability to recover treble damages and attorney’s fees in “exceptional” cases of trademark infringement;

(7) Providing the ability to recover statutory damages in cases involving counterfeiting;

(8) Giving you the ability to file for “incontestability” after five years of registration, which severely limits other companies’ ability to invalidate your trademark;

(9) Empowering Customs and Border Protection to block imports that infringe your trademark rights, including counterfeit products, once you record your trademark registration with Customs; and

(10) Granting you the right to use the ® symbol in connection with your beer, further putting your competitors on notice of your trademark rights.

Even if you’re in the planning process, and have not begun selling your beer yet, you may apply on an “intent-to-use” basis, meaning that you have concrete plans to begin using your mark in connection with the sale of beer. An intent-to-use application allows you to claim priority over other companies who might begin using your mark or a confusingly similar mark in the period between your application date and the date you start actually using the mark.

Keep in mind that you may not be able to establish exclusive trademark rights in a mark that is generic or descriptive of your products. For example, if you’re selling an IPA called “Hoppy IPA,” you will likely be unable to stop other breweries from using the name “Hoppy” in connection with their hop-forward beers. The “Hoppy” mark would be deemed descriptive because it describes a characteristic of the beer. The only way to establish trademark rights in a descriptive mark is to show that consumers associate the mark with your company. In the “Hoppy IPA” example, that means that consumers who hear “Hoppy” would need to immediately connect that term with your brewery.

On the other hand, you can reference a characteristic of your beer with a suggestive mark that requires consumers to use some imagination to connect your mark to the product. For example, consider Deschutes’ “Fresh Squeezed” mark for their IPA brewed with Citra hops, which alludes to the citrus notes in their beer. Stronger still are arbitrary names that have no direct connection to your beer or its characteristics (think “Stone Brewing” or “Rogue Ales”) or fanciful names you made up that have no literal meaning (like “Mikkeller” or “CANarchy”).

Stay tuned for Part Two of our brewery-focused trademark posts, in which we will discuss considerations regarding coexistence agreements.

Conkle, Kremer and Engel has assisted its clients in securing and protecting their trademarks for over thirty years. Whether you’re in the planning stages or already operating your brewery, contact Zachary Page or CK&E’s intellectual property team for help identifying or protecting your trademarks.

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Cosmoprof North America Features Challenging CBD, Natural and Organic Product Lines

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On July 29 and 30, 2018, Conkle, Kremer & Engel continued its annual firm attendance at Cosmoprof North America in Las Vegas, visiting with longtime and new clients and observing new brands and trends in the personal care industry.  This year’s edition of Cosmoprof had over 36,000 attendees with a record-breaking 1,278 exhibitors from 45 countries.  CK&E attorneys attend to connect with clients and others in the cosmetics, personal care, packaging, labeling and professional beauty markets, to help clients secure distribution agreements, and to learn about the newest industry innovations and issues.

This year, trends included substantial expansion of the mens’ care and beard care sector, along with CBD-infused cosmetics and hair care products and natural and organic hair regrowth formulas.  Organic products sold in California must meet strict requirements, and Products with “natural” claims can present special challenges and risks, as CK&E has addressed in previous blog posts, such as “What are Natural Products Anyway?”  A new twist has been recent growth (no pun) in “hair regrowth” products labeled as “natural” or “organic” .  Those classes of products face special issues in addition to whether they can fairly be called “natural” or “organic,” in that hair regrowth claims can at times run afoul of federal prohibitions on products that make drug-like claims without FDA approval, as well as federal and state labeling and advertising regulations.  Finally, a new class of beauty and hair care products are based on Cannabidiol (CBD) content, taking advantage of increased acceptance of cannabis-based products.  Yet CBD products continue to pose their own special issues, which will be the subject of an upcoming www.conklelaw.com blog post.  CK&E is well-versed in counseling clients on all such issues, from brand protection, vendor and distribution issues to the latest CBD, natural and organic product concerns.

Lastly, foremost on the minds of many manufacturers and distributors who sell in California were the new requirements for Proposition 65, the well-known California law requiring “Prop 65” warnings for products which contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.  New warning label requirements go into effect on August 30, 2018, which CK&E has already summarized on its blog.  CK&E is actively advising manufacturers about the most efficient and effective ways to address the changes and avoid the risks of inadvertent violations.

CK&E’s attorneys continue to pride themselves on keeping abreast of developments in the personal care market, along with assisting clients of all sizes with growth and protection of their brands and interests.  CK&E is an active member of the Professional Beauty Association, the Personal Care Products Council, and other important industry trade organizations.

 

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CKE Attorneys Attend Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville

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From April 30 to May 3, 2018, attorneys Evan Pitchford and Zach Page of Conkle, Kremer & Engel attended the Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Conference, with nearly 15,000 attendees, is the premier trade show, educational, and networking event for the craft brewing industry.  At the Conference, Mr. Pitchford and Mr. Page participated in numerous business and legal affairs seminars and conferred with brewery operators and executives, suppliers, attorneys, accountants, and consultants from California and across the country.

While the main theme of the Conference was solidarity and cooperation between independent craft brewers and their networks, prominent legal and business issues discussed among attendees often focused on the increasingly crowded space of the craft beer market.  This increasing competition has resulted in intellectual property conflicts and disputes (for example, regarding trademarks for brewery names or branding for particular beers) that craft brewers need to plan around when starting their business and expanding their portfolios.  CK&E has attorneys like Mr. Page and Mr. Pitchford who are experienced in assisting clients in selecting, registering, and enforcing trademarks and trade dress in many consumer product industries.

Another hot business topic concerned distribution models for small breweries.  In several states (including California), self-distribution is available for small breweries (California allows for self-distribution regardless of volume), but as our previous blog noted, oftentimes a small brewery reaches a point where it cannot handle its own distribution and must seek out a distributor.  And, of course, in many other states, self-distribution is not permitted at all, necessitating the involvement of a distributor when a brewery wishes to sell draught beer or package their products.  Many small breweries are concerned not only with the myriad choices of distributors, but also with finding a distributor that is the right fit and will actively promote their portfolio, and with the often restrictive laws that are involved in manufacturer-distribution relationships.  Breweries should certainly be choosy about their distributors when possible, and in many jurisdictions there are an array of potential contractual provisions (for example, regarding sales goals, chain vs. independent accounts or other account stratification, marketing, plans for brand growth, audits, etc.) that can help shape a distributor relationship before it starts.  It pays to consider and discuss as many contractual parameters as possible before signing a distribution agreement.

Additional hot topics at the Craft Brewers Conference included new Tax and Trade Bureau funding for enforcement, government regulations of taprooms and brewpubs, off-premise sales, and licenses for short-term out-of-state sales (e.g. for festivals or competitions).  As the craft brewing industry continues to grow in footprint and sophistication, look for business and legal issues to be pushed even further to the forefront of the discussion.

Contact Conkle, Kremer & Engel for assistance with your brewery business or distribution needs.

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Common Legal Mistakes Made in Social Media Influencer/Brand Relationships

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With over 2.5 billion social media users worldwide, it is no surprise that social media marketing is booming and partnerships between brands and social media influencers (i.e. individuals with large followings on social media platforms) are becoming increasingly popular.  These partnerships can be great opportunities for both parties – on the one hand, the brand gets promoted to the influencer’s thousands or millions of followers by a person they admire and trust, while the influencer gets compensated for this promotion.  However, these brand/influencer relationships can also expose both parties to lawsuits and fines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Although social media may seem like an informal marketing platform, the FTC has determined that its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising apply to social media marketing, just as they apply to other forms of marketing.  This article outlines how to avoid a few of the common legal issues that arise in the course of a brand/influencer relationship.

Disclose the relationship between the influencer and brand. Part of the appeal of hiring an influencer for a marketing campaign is the authentic feel of the endorsement.  However, the FTC’s the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising require influencers to disclose “material connections” that they have with the brand they are endorsing.  A connection is deemed “material” when the relationship between the influencer and brand may materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement from the influencer. 16 C.F.R. § 255.5 (2009).  An obvious example of a material connection is one where the brand is paying the influencer to endorse or review a product, but even friendships or familial relationships between the influencer and brand are material, as the influencer may be more likely to give a product a positive review because of this relationship.  

The disclosure of the material connection must be clear and conspicuous.  For example, a disclosure that consumers can only see if they click to see more of a post, or ambiguous hashtags such as “#ambassador” or “#collab,” are insufficient to meet the FTC’s disclosure requirement.  On the other hand, the FTC has stated that “#ad” close to the beginning of a post is a sufficient disclosure.  Both the influencer and the brand may be liable for the influencer’s failure to disclose a material connection, so brands must be sure to inform influencers of the duty to disclose and monitor the influencers’ posts to ensure compliance with the FTC Guides.

The claims in the endorsement must be truthful.  Claims made by a social media influencer in an endorsement must be truthful and substantiated.  This means that advertising claims cannot be misleading to the average reasonable consumer, and any statements made about a product or service must be supported by evidence.  Even if the influencer makes a misleading or unsubstantiated claim about a product without consulting the brand, the brand will still be liable the influencer’s statements. Again, this highlights the importance of monitoring the influencer’s posts and providing the influencer with guidelines about what claims he or she can legally make about the product or service being advertised.

Determine who owns the intellectual property rights in the content.  In a typical company/influencer relationship, the influencer will post a photograph and accompanying text exhibiting the brand’s products or services on the influencer’s social media account.  If the influencer created this content, the influencer owns the copyrights to it, and the brand could be liable for copyright infringement if it reuses this content without the influencer’s permission.  To avoid this issue, the brand should ensure that there is an agreement in place between with the influencer assigning the copyright to the brand.

Obey the reposting rules from each social media platform.  It’s a common misconception that all of the social media platforms have the same rules regarding reposting content from another user.  The reality is that reposting user content on some platforms is perfectly acceptable, while on others it constitutes infringement.  For example, on Twitter you may freely repost Tweets from other Twitter users.  By becoming a Twitter user, you agree to Twitter’s Terms of Service, which permit you to “Retweet” the content of other Twitter users and allows other Twitter users to Retweet your content.  Instagram, on the other hand, does not include any such provision in its terms of service, and even requires users to “agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of Content you post on or through the Instagram Services.”

Make sure the content does not infringe a third party’s rights.  Even if the brand and influencer have reached an agreement regarding the ownership of the content in a social media endorsement post, the post may infringe the rights of a third party if it includes a third party’s image or artwork.  If someone’s image is used in the endorsement, this person may claim a violation of his or her publicity rights.  Similarly, the use of another’s artwork in the content of the endorsement may constitute copyright or trademark infringement, subject to the fair use defense (which is less likely to apply to a social media post that is clearly an advertisement).

To learn more about the formation of and legal pitfalls to be avoided during the course brand/influencer relationships, contact Heather Laird-Vanderpool or Aleen Tomassian.

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