The brand of a business is undoubtedly one of the main influencing factors in making or breaking its success. Good and strong branding can take a business to unimaginable heights. In the same vein, weak branding can run a business into the ground very quickly and in many cases, even before the business is given a chance to take off. Putting your best foot forward in terms of branding is paramount to any business, no matter small or large, from start-ups to SMEs and multinationals.
However, putting your best foot forward in terms of branding is more than creating a good brand. Protecting your brand is also part of the equation, in particular, protecting the intellectual property of the business, which involves names, logos, trademarks, copyrights, inventions, designs and so on. A brand is more than a string of words – it is a reflection of the business’ ideas, values and qualities, all of which are idiosyncratic to the competitors in the same market. Protecting the intellectual property which gives a business its recognition and edge should be a top priority as branding is the main force in attracting and keeping its consumers. Stolen intellectual property can result in a loss and diversification of consumers, which in turn, result in financial drain for the business.
So where should business owners start?
Research Your Market and Competitors
One mistake commonly made by businesses is to place great stakes into a brand name and identity before conducting thorough research of its market and competitors. Business owners must ensure that his or her branding does not infringe upon other businesses – meaning same or similar branding to competitor goods or services must be avoided at all costs.
Research is the first step to protecting your brand as your business can and will potentially face legal action from a competitor for infringing upon its trademarks, either on purpose or by mistake. On these grounds, you as a business owner will need to switch branding as soon as possible – meaning the money, time and effort put into marketing your business under the old branding will be sunk costs.
In an alternative scenario, business owners face the reality of being rejected multiple times during the trademark application process, especially during the very early stages where trademark searches are conducted. Business owners will have a greater chance at a successful trademark application at the first attempt or lesser attempts if time was taken to research competitor brands in the market prior to investing in a brand name and identity.
Consider Assets That Needs Protecting
The idea of protecting your brand is more than protecting the name that represents your business. Business owners must consider their logo, colours, fonts, designs, images, sounds, geographical location – all individual aspects contributing to the overall vibe of your brand.
Perhaps business owners could approach the question of what is most valuable to his or her business from the point of view of competitors. What would competitors be most interested in and how could they profit off your intellectual property? In our previous article, we have highlighted that Adidas’ trademarks consist of more than their logo but also the three-stripe design that features on the side of their apparel. Food and beverage companies on the other hand, might want to protect the shape and design of their packaging, or even the shape of their products. Ritter Sport recently won a legal dispute against Milka with aims to protect the shape of their square shaped chocolate bars. (Source: BBC News)
These two case studies demonstrate the importance of thinking outside the box in protecting a business’ most valuable assets – sometimes, it can be just as simple as a gold foil wrapped bunny. (Source: BBC News)
Register Your Trademark
The greatest protection you can give to your brand is to register your trademarks. Registering your trademarks will grant you legal protection provided that business owners register their trademarks in the markets they seek protection in. Business owners must know that intellectual property protection varies from country to country and they must apply for trademark protection in each designated country. Whilst there is no such thing as international trademark protection, business owners are able to file an international trademark application via the Madrid Protocol.
For many businesses trademark registration is seen as a crucial investment for the purposes of improving the image of the business, gaining and retaining the loyalty of its customer base and expansion of the business internationally. The value of a trademark must not be underestimated; it should be a top priority for business owners to ensure all trademarks in relation to the business are registered accordingly.
Proper Trademark Use
Upon successful trademark registration, business owners must now learn how to utilise their trademarks properly. Proper trademark use includes using the Ⓡ symbol to signal to consumers and competitors that your trademark has been successfully registered. Businesses yet to register their trademarks in the relevant intellectual property office but in the process of doing so can use the ™ symbol to stake their claim.
Secondly, business owners should use their trademarks as registered to avoid competitors from invalidating their trademarks. Correct and consistent use will strengthen the protection of a trademark. To avoid confusion and possible complications, business owners hoping to modify their registered trademarks should consult with a trademark agent before taking any concrete action.
Lastly, intellectual property portfolios should be maintained rigorously as to preserve the value of your trademarks. Renewing your trademarks in a timely manner can prevent competitors from exploiting your intellectual property assets through loopholes. Business owners should regularly evaluate their intellectual property portfolios in order to protect and maximise the utility, merit and performance of their assets.
Third Party Trademark Use
If you can’t stop them, acknowledge them. Registering your trademarks will not only grant you the freedom utilise them for your business – you are also legally allowed to license your trademarks to third parties wishing to associate themselves with your business. Giving authorisation to use your business’ trademarks can be a way to maximise the value of your intellectual property portfolio, as your brand can gain even more impressions and coverage than before. Furthermore, third parties must pay fees in order to gain access to your registered trademarks. Perhaps the most important factor to take into consideration in terms of third party trademark use is that business owners need not enter into a legal dispute with third parties over trademark infringement – instead, an agreement can be settled upon and the marks can be utilised by both parties in a legal manner, avoiding wasted time and fees on legal battles.
Quality Oracle is proud of 28 years of experience in trademark registration. Our team guarantees a professional, streamlined and efficient trademark application and registration process. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you and your business thrive by protecting your trademark today.