How to scrape and download images for intellectual property protection
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Vejune Tamuliunaite

Jan 07, 2021 9 min read

In today’s knowledge-based and globalized economy, a company’s intellectual property assets form a great deal of business value. And while the internet has opened enormous opportunities for businesses to communicate their brand messages, it also created a fertile ground for intellectual property abuse.

According to the EU Intellectual Property Office report, in 2016, the magnitude of international trade in counterfeit products reached almost USD 509 billion, constituting up to 3.3 % of world trade. Businesses cannot entirely rely on standard legal precautionary measures to battle brand abuse online but search for proactive intellectual property monitoring and protection solutions.

This article will cover how companies can employ image scraping from search pages to get up-to-date information for advanced intellectual property assets monitoring. We will also discuss the most usual data gathering methods, such as an in-house built image scraper with proxies and Oxylabs all-in-one solution Real-Time Crawler.

Why is intellectual property protection crucial?

Intellectual property describes the creations of the mind, such as technology, inventions, images, and designs used in commerce. It is protected by law (copyright, patent, and trademarks), ensuring that the creators can receive acknowledgment and financial reward for their work.  

The aim of intellectual property rights is to foster a flourishing environment of creativity and innovation that might fuel economic growth. New creations may lead to new job opportunities and novel technologies, thus provoking our world to progress and evolve faster.

While intellectual property is usually intangible, it can be more crucial to businesses’ success than other tangible assets, such as equipment or inventory.

How can intellectual property be infringed?

No surprise that most brand misuse activities happen in the digital universe. The internet has given extensive possibilities for businesses to place and communicate their brand ideas. Unfortunately, it quickly became a favorable (opportune) field for brand infringers and malicious actors seeking to use copyrighted material and sell fake products through the internet.

Major search engines, such as Google or Bing, have pointed out that the internet has expanded enormously in the last decade – today, the number of indexed web pages equals at least 5.43 billion pages. Such volumes indicate how challenging it is for the right owners to keep track of their valuable assets’ usage online.

Doing nothing is not an option for businesses that aim to protect their brand in the high-speed digital world.  Thus, automated intellectual property monitoring solutions are especially valuable for efficiently collecting business intelligence and sending a signal to intellectual property rights perpetrators that a trademark is actively protected.

Image scraping for intellectual property protection

As with other brand protection cases, scraping publicly available data across the internet is the predominant way to monitor and detect online misuse activities. To be even more precise, due to the complex nature of intellectual property, scraping images from search engines is particularly effective when monitoring and detecting intellectual property infringement.

Since infringing sites frequently change, infringers switch and hide their identities. It requires extra efforts not only to track but also to prove counterfeiting and piracy activities when such are detected. The process of crawling through search engines and analyzing collected data could deliver evidence requested by legal authorities when prosecuting misconduct.

Businesses who fall victim to brand infringement need to secure evidence and up-to-date information to support successful legal prosecution. Data gathered by scraping images from major search engines can discover identical or confusingly similar products registered by third parties. 

Intellectual property protection requires continuous monitoring and long-term security strategies
Brands are constantly fighting counterfeit sales online and offline.

Challenges of scraping images from search engines

Like any data acquisition project, scraping images from search engines entails several things to keep in mind before starting your project.

The usual challenges of scraping images from search engine result pages (SERP) are these:

  • Resources. Data from search pages is known as hard to collect. Thus, building an image scraper may require significant resources: a team of developers and experts in web scraping, time, and money. All of these can be optimized if the right solution is chosen for the project. We shall outline the possible scenarios later in this article. 
  • Blocks and CAPTCHAs. Major search engines apply sophisticated anti-scraping measures, which can lead to blocking your IP address when scraping images from SERP. Not to mention another common challenge – Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA) that occurs when a search engine or web page detects unusual behavior. Blocks and CAPTCHAs slow down the entire web scraping process and increase costs.

In-house image scraping

Businesses with a dedicated team of web developers may choose to build their own image scrapers. Internal web scraping tools powered by a premium proxy pool can be a great solution. 

Scraping images with Python

One of the most common methods of building an internal image scraper is with Python. While it has its perks and drawbacks, it might be a good choice for companies that possess the necessary resources. Due to its demand for technical knowledge and time, it may be especially fitting smaller projects. However, it is necessary to mention that the complex process allows the risk of human error. 

We have covered how to make an image scraper with Python in another article. Throughout the tutorial, we looked through the whole process: installing Python, getting Selenium, and the required libraries. Also, we outlined how to get image URLs, download images, and save them in a set location. 

If you are intrigued to try and build a Python image scraper, we suggest you start with another read to better understand how to create a basic data acquisition tool. Also, watch our step-by-step video tutorial on how to build a simple web scraper with Python. 

Fueling image scraping with proxies

Using a mix of datacenter and residential proxies empowers image scraping because of these reasons:

  • Both residential and datacenter proxies allow bypassing geo-location restrictions.
  • Proxies help acquire publicly available data faster and with a lower risk of IP blocks and CAPTCHAs.

Yet utilizing internal web scraper with proxies may have some drawbacks, such as:

  • It still demands deep technical knowledge and a dedicated team of scraping experts. 
  • This option may be time consuming and expensive. 

Which proxy pool features are essential?

Web scraping and proxies go together. This is why choosing the right type of proxies for your project is crucial and requires additional research and knowledge. If you are using an in-house built image scraper, you might need to consider these proxy parameters before making the decision:

Proxy pool size

Web monitoring for intellectual property protection may call for large-scale data collection, immense resources, and best performance capabilities. This is why it is advisable to consider proxy pool size before deciding. This parameter indicates proxy speeds and other performance metrics that are essential for scraping images from search engines.

Number of locations 

The ultimate goal of scraping images for intellectual property protection can be very diverse – from catching evidence of certain targets to getting localized results. For this reason, global coverage of multi geo-locations is an important aspect when considering proxy type. Both datacenter and residential proxies accomplish this task. Although residential proxies are more flexible when choosing specific locations, datacenter proxies can also be an efficient option. Oxylabs’ Datacenter Proxies offer the largest dedicated proxy IP pool (2M+) in 82 locations around the globe. 

Multiple protocol support 

The complexity of major search engines and websites, as well as the diversity of targets and formats, demand flexible solutions. Oxylabs’ Datacenter Proxies support all the main internet protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, and SOCKS5 protocols, while our Residential Proxies support HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

Proxy type: Private or shared?

It goes without saying that professional business goals require professional measures. Shared proxies may be cheaper than dedicated ones, however, the price has its costs. Private proxies guarantee high speed, stability, and reliability – essential parameters for accurately capturing publicly available data. All Oxylabs’ proxies are private since we aim to set the highest business standards.

Session control

Finally, ensuring unlimited concurrent sessions is another proxy parameter that may lead to a successful and efficient web scraping experience. With Oxylabs Datacenter Proxies, you can send an unlimited amount of concurrent sessions, making it a reliable intellectual property monitoring solution.

Web scraping solution for effective image scraping

As mentioned before, building a web scraper is challenging. Luckily, there are ready-to-use web scraping tools, like Oxylabs’ web scraper Real-Time Crawler. It is specifically created for acquiring publicly available data from sources such as e-commerce websites and major search engines.

When scraping images for intellectual property protection, these are the benefits of employing Real-Time Crawler:

  • It offers 100% delivery by extracting data from most search engines and websites without getting blocked. 
  • With the support of a 102M+ IPs proxy pool, Real-Time Crawler can access geo-restricted data. 
  • Ideal for large-scale projects that require collecting and processing heavy-duty data from multiple sources.
  • This tool helps reduce costs since our clients pay only for successfully delivered results. 
  • It delivers structured data in JSON format from major search engines and leading e-commerce websites.
  • Real-Time Crawler requires zero maintenance: it handles website changes and proxy management.
  • It also includes Proxy Rotator for dealing with CAPTCHAs and managing IP blocks.

Real-Time Crawler allows companies to focus on collected data analysis rather than acquisition. 

Oxylabs web scraping solution helps to acquire and download images from search engines effortlessly
How Real-Time Crawler works

Conclusion

Thanks to the internet, the modern business landscape has changed remarkably. Due to the increased risk of intellectual property infringement, companies need to outsmart intellectual property infringers in the digital world. This is where proxies and web scrapers come into play. 

Summing up all the pros and cons, we can distinguish what works best for the most common data acquisition methods: if you decide to build an internal image scraper powered by proxies and scrape publicly available data from websites, then datacenter proxies are the best choice. If you want to focus more on data analysis and protecting your intellectual property or need to acquire data from major search engines, then Real-Time Crawler is a go-to solution for effortless data extraction. 

If you would like to learn more about some of the topics mentioned in this article, then read a post on acquiring data directly from search engines or our in-depth guide on web scraping for brand protection

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About Vejune Tamuliunaite

Vejune Tamuliunaite is a Copywriter at Oxylabs with a passion for testing her limits. After years of working as a scriptwriter, she turned to the tech-side and is fascinated by being at core of creating the future. When not writing in-depth articles, Vejune enjoys spending time in nature and watching classic sci-fi movies. Also, she probably could tell the Star Wars script by heart.

All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.

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