How to Use Proxies for Intellectual Property Protection
Big or small, any business needs to know how to protect its ideas. Especially for solo freelancers in creative fields, intellectual property is often the foundation of your income.
To sell a creative product, you first have to put in the work to create it. For example, if you take the time to produce photography and someone steals it to use for their own promotion, you’re out the time and effort that went into those images — and get no pay in return.
Unfortunately, the same thing that makes it easy to start an online business makes it simple for people to pirate intellectual property and distribute it without paying the creator their due. While piracy and theft can’t be eradicated entirely, there are ways to fight back.
One of those tools will seem unlikely: web scraping. Web scraping can often be seen as a way to steal data, not protect it — but it can be used both ways.
Here we’ll go over how to use web scraping and proxies for intellectual property protection, and why it’s a good idea. We’ll start by defining what exactly constitutes intellectual property.
If you’re looking for specific information, use the table of contents to jump to a section.
Intellectual Property Defined
Ideas, trade secrets, creative products, patents — all of these fall under the umbrella of intellectual property.
The four main types of intellectual property that are widely recognized and legally protected are:
- Trademarks: This includes information like company names, brand slogans, logos, phrases, and even sounds. It’s considered the most common type of intellectual property.
- Patents: Filing a patent protects an invention or idea from unlicensed production. No one but the one who holds the patent on the idea can use, make, or sell it.
- Copyrights: Artistic work like writing, photography, or music is commonly protected under copyright law. The copyright holder has the ability to sell, reproduce, or change the work. Similar to a patent, it protects the potential theft of your ideas.
- Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are highly confidential secrets that add value to a business. Recipes and chemical formulas are common examples of trade secrets, but this can also apply to any idea produced by someone at a company.
Now that we’ve got a better understanding of what constitutes intellectual property, let’s see how you can protect it.
Using Web Scraping and Proxies for Intellectual Property Protection
No discussion of web scraping is complete without also discussing proxies. Since they act as a go-between and mask your machine’s internet protocol (IP) address, they allow you to collect data anonymously. This is especially important when web scraping at scale because you’re likely to get blocked after making too many requests from a single IP address.
The anonymity of proxies can lend itself to bad actors stealing data. But when used ethically, web scraping and proxies can be a tool for good that helps empower businesses.
Ways companies can protect their intellectual property, including their brand, with web scraping include:
- Monitoring the web for consumer sentiment
- Scanning sites for counterfeit or stolen data
- Avoiding geo-restrictions to check other countries for stolen data
- And more
Monitoring Consumer Sentiment
Keeping an eye on what people are saying about your brand helps you monitor how they’re feeling about it and your products. If you notice a sudden spike in bad reviews or bad press, it can alert you to a deeper problem — like someone peddling counterfeit knockoffs of your product that don’t work.
So how does web scraping help here? It scours the internet for you. Every web scraper can be programmed to search for specific data. If you tell your scraper to search for certain keywords in association with your brand, you can sift through that data to see what people are saying.
You can even tell a web scraper to look for an image of your product. If that image shows up on a site that isn’t yours, you can take action. Often when evidence of intellectual property theft is found, companies submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice telling the offending entity to take the counterfeit product down — otherwise, the offender will face legal action.
Scanning Sites For Stolen Data
Just like monitoring consumer sentiment, web scrapers can be programmed to search keywords that point you to counterfeiters. You can tell your web scraper to look for your brand name and the names of products you sell to see if anyone is trying to pass off cheap copies of your products as their own.
For example, let’s say you’re Nike. Programming a web scraping tool to look for the phrase “Air Jordans” in a website’s product description can tell you if someone is selling stolen or counterfeit Air Jordan shoes online. Once you identify a culprit, you can take the appropriate action.
If you’re a poet or an author, you can program a scraper to look for specific passages of text or phrases you’ve used. If you find those phrases being used on a website that isn’t yours and without giving you credit, you can do something about it.
Online content that’s restricted to certain countries can make it difficult to detect intellectual property theft. For example, let’s say you’re a photographer in the U.S. and someone in Germany takes your photos and sells prints of them online without your consent. If their site is geo-restricted to only be visible to people in Germany, you won’t know they’re stealing your work.
Luckily, web scraping makes it easy to get around geo-restrictions through the use of proxies. Because proxies can use an IP address from anywhere, they can make it look as though you’re in a geo-restricted location. Using a proxy with a German IP address would let you see that person stealing your photographs, and you’d be able to stop them.
Getting the Right Proxies
You might think any kind of proxy will work for web scraping — but that’s not true. While you can obtain proxies online for free, most of the time you don’t know where they come from. More often than not, these proxies use IP addresses obtained without people’s knowledge or consent.
Blazing SEO doesn’t use illegally obtained proxies. We believe in conducting ourselves ethically, compensating people for the use of their IPs, and taking steps to ensure that our proxies aren’t used for illicit activity. We offer two kinds of proxies that are excellent for web scraping:
- Elite data center proxies
- Residential proxies
Residential proxies are especially good for web scraping because they make it appear as though your request is coming from a normal person’s computer or device instead of a web scraping program. We suggest using a rotating group of residential proxies with staggered request times for the best results. Each use case of residential proxies must be reviewed by us before we sell to anyone. Check out our rotating residential IPs to help with your web scraping needs.
Data center proxies still act as an intermediary between you and the internet, but use a data center instead of a personal device IP. They aren’t associated with an internet service provider (ISP) and use the data center’s IP address instead. Data center proxies can be faster than residential proxies and still offer anonymity even though they identify themselves as proxies when sending a request.
Which type of proxy you’ll use depends on why you’re using it, what your needs are, and how intensive your web scraping efforts will be. You can read our blog for more on the difference between residential and data center proxies. You can get all the details on the different proxies we offer here.
A Powerful Weapon For Brand Protection
Once you know how to use it, web scraping is a powerful asset to any business looking to protect its brand and intellectual property. While before counterfeit products had to be physically hunted down, now a web scraping bot can retrieve information on them in seconds from the web.
Web scraping can also help you stay up to date on customer sentiment. It’s important to know what people think about your product regardless, but a massive swing in reviews can alert you to a problem that needs your attention.
You can also get around geographic restrictions with web scraping to check other countries for counterfeit products and stolen intellectual property. This is especially useful for large international companies that have a high demand for their product in multiple areas. Anyone can benefit from leveraging web scraping this way, however.
Finally, any web scraping effort requires quality proxies to make it work. Whether you choose data center or residential, the proxies you buy should have credentials specific to you and be ethically obtained. They should never be used to steal or copy another site’s data.
The information contained within this article, including information posted by official staff, guest-submitted material, message board postings, or other third-party material is presented solely for the purposes of education and furtherance of the knowledge of the reader. All trademarks used in this publication are hereby acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.
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