The Virginia-based firm will charge clients $195 to search all major ISPs, online services, and chat rooms for potential infringements. Clients receive a report with the data and some analysis. However, because it is not providing a legal service, the company cannot determine what is and is not illegal. In fact, Infringatek director Sudeep Bose is hoping to woo trademark attorneys as his first clients.
Bose hopes trademark lawyers will leave the tracking of possible Internet trademark violations to those with computer know-how. "As of yet, attorneys don't understand the broad nature of the new medium," he said.
The company claims to be different from other watchdog services because its service combines both human and computer searches, while other services rely only on automated scans of Web sites.
Netizens are notoriously skeptical of any government interference online and have long sought for ways to police trademark violations without succumbing to regulatory legislation. Services like Infringatek's, if successful, could give Netizens the chance to police themselves.
The United States has not passed any legislation to date dealing with enforcement of violations over the Net.
In December, the World Intellectual Property Organization's diplomatic conference signed two treaties that strengthened intellectual property rights on the Net but left specific enforcement to individual countries.
Infringatek uses an automated search program that indexes, organizes, and filters possible violations. Then, "professional trademark searchers" step in to check the context, fonts, and layout of the allegedly illegal sites, according to Bose.
The service will concentrate mainly on flagrant violations, such as the selling of counterfeit goods through chat rooms, newsgroup postings, and Web sites. Bose said a major lingerie manufacturer whose products are widely sold unlicensed through the Internet is already on board, but he sees PC makers as his main target.
"The computer industry has a problem and they're starting to look at it very carefully. There are generic computer configurations sold [over the Internet] with the trademark on them. Compaq is copied, Dell is copied," Bose added.