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New Research Shows 70% of Custom Print-On-Demand Companies Are Not Protecting Intellectual Property

Study by Visual-AI Company Visua Reveals Online Print Companies Across the UK and EU Are Not Taking Reasonable Steps to Protect Intellectual Property and Risking Lawsuits.

New research from Visual-AI company, VISUA has revealed that 70% of online custom print-on-demand businesses in the UK and EU are not taking steps to protect intellectual property, thereby increasing their risk of lawsuits. VISUA provides Visual-AI technology that helps brands monitor digital content. To date, VISUA has helped many leading companies including UK based Brandwatch, eBay, MVP and Synthesio. In the print-on-demand space, companies like GearLaunch and TeePublic use Visual-AI technology to mitigate legal risks associated with third-parties potentially infringing on intellectual property rights.

A recent study carried out by the Visual-AI firm researched the top custom print-on-demand companies in the UK and across the EU and identified a serious issue with many of them not monitoring uploaded imagery for intellectual property infringements. It was found that 70% of print-on-demand companies are failing to monitor and stop the printing of apparent copyrighted and trademarked creative works by third parties. The result of such actions exposes these companies to liability risks if left unattended and has previously led to multi-million-pound lawsuits against companies in this sector, such as Redbubble and TeeSpring. This is part of a much wider issue touching on illegal replicas of brands, with piracy and counterfeit goods costing the UK economy £9 billion and 80,500 job losses each year.

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With hundreds of print-on-demand companies across the UK and EU, this recent research highlights a large proportion of those will be failing to detect and stop potentially protected works from being printed. The UK alone is the world’s fifth largest producer of printed products, experiencing £14.3 billion in turnover every year. To conduct the research, VISUA analyzed every print-on-demand company with a turnover of at least £1 million across the UK.

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Commenting on the findings, VISUA Co-founder and CEO, Luca Boschin said: “Having worked so closely with GearLaunch to implement our technology we saw very clearly how they were able to mitigate risks and protect intellectual property. We have seen them invest in their trust and safety processes in order to better address and potentially eliminate these issues entirely. We are thrilled to partner with responsible e-commerce businesses such as GearLaunch, that take issues of intellectual property seriously and prioritize investment in risk mitigation.

Luca continues, “Our understanding of the challenge for these companies is three-fold. Firstly, the volume of images to check is beyond feasible for humans to do. Secondly, not every design is obvious, like a mash-up of the throne from Game of Thrones in the Adidas 3-leaf logo. Thirdly, we believe that print-on-demand companies don’t know that AI can resolve these issues effectively and affordably. But we’re here to say that failing to police these issues in 2020 is frankly negligent to the business when it can be eradicated so easily.”

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Lending his insights on the technology, GearLaunch’s General Counsel and VP of Operations, Jared Hunsaker, commented: “We’re delighted to be working with the VISUA team to continue to work to help mitigate these intellectual property issues. By implementing their Visual-AI technology within our platform, we can identify and help protect any works that may be protected by intellectual property laws that are uploaded by third parties who use our platform. A side-effect of this has been that third-party sellers started delivering more unique and creative content that became more appealing to consumers.”

VISUA VP of Sales and Marketing, Declan McGonigle, added:
“Through implementing this investigation we were able to identify a clear gap in copyright compliance around the print-on-demand sector. Interestingly, 90% of companies approached had some sort of legal text for customers to accept on upload or order confirmation, so they understand the legal consequences of printing potentially protected content, but are putting the onus on the consumer to police themselves. But to date, any legal cases have been brought against the producers and not the consumers/uploaders. It is therefore imperative that the responsibility be taken by the print-on-demand companies to implement solutions to address this issue.”

VISUA offers solutions to help with brand protection, authentication, and monitoring, and also consumer engagement campaigns through Visual-AI. Visual-AI is used to deliver deep intelligence and solve issues in counterfeit detection, social media, sports sponsorship, advertising and digital piracy monitoring.

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