22 November 2022
WeChat and Brand Protection is a hot topic given the app reaches over 1 Billion users and is a platform used for business all over the world. Corsearch, brandsec’s brand protection partner discusses 4 Things You Need to Know About WeChat
What is WeChat?
With more than a Billion users, WeChat is one of the world’s most popular social media messaging apps, and is similar to WhatsApp. Launched in 2011 by Chinese tech giant Tencent, WeChat is no longer just a messaging app and has become a social media staple in China (for business and pleasure) where Facebook and similar apps are banned. In 2022, the Office of the United States Trade Representative added WeChat’s eCommerce ecosystem to its list of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy and many brands are concerned about activity on the app.
WeChat is more than instant messaging
While it bears surface similarities to programs like WhatsApp, WeChat is really a social media company. The huge variety of extensions, games, content types, blogs, and newsfeeds (known as mini-programs) supported by WeChat give it a uniquely integrated ecosystem. WeChat also has a digital wallet called WeChat Pay, which allows the sending of monetary gifts, eCommerce and physical retail payments, cash transfers, credit card payments, and the ordering of services including, taxis. There are also links to public services, so users can make visa applications, medical appointments, and other arrangements linked to their personal data.
Weishang is WeChat’s eCommerce system
WeChat’s in-app marketplace is known as Weishang. A mixture of official brands and user-run selling profiles, Weishang has become an extremely popular way for Chinese consumers to buy goods. The combination of messaging, payment, and listings means shoppers can research, browse, play, and purchase in one place. This is a good arrangement for sellers too as they can advertise, create content, communicate with buyers, and conduct financial transactions without the need for external structures.
WeChat’s closed system is a danger for some brands
Counterfeiting and brand infringement are common occurrences on WeChat, a problem exacerbated by the app’s privacy settings. While public-facing websites, such as Taobao or Alibaba facilitate transactions between strangers and show public use/infringement of trademarks, WeChat can be a closed loop to brands and IP professionals. Sellers are also able to hide their identities and locations, selling only to people with whom they have established a direct connection.
How should IP rights be considered in relation to WeChat? Brands should be aware of the various ways that infringements occur. If sellers wish to remain private, they can post infringing listings through their newsfeed and then receive messages from users in their network. These messages and listings cannot be searched publicly or via search engines. Counterfeiters can also post publicly though and thus receive a wider range of hits. Additionally, there are examples of profiles where trademarks and copyrighted materials are used unofficially to promote content. All these factors should be taken into consideration when advising on the usage of IP rights in China.
IP enforcement is possible on WeChat
IP owners can report infringements on WeChat in a number of ways. It is possible to make complaints against public content, against private content, and through a designated WeChat Brand Owner Program. The Brand Owner Program may be a useful avenue for many brands, but this may be challenging due to language and search difficulties. Corsearch’s team of native speakers in China work with platforms such as WeChat to monitor and enforce in this region. Please contact us today for a discussion about China and how our Screening, Search, Watching, and Protection trademark solutions are best placed to establish and protect IP through the whole brand lifecycle.
brandsec is a corporate domain name management and brand protection company that looks after many of Australia, New Zealand and Asia’s top publicly listed brands. We provide monitoring and enforcement services, DNS, SSL Management, domain name brokerage and dispute management and brand security consultation services.