You’re all set to go. You know your product or service (maybe it’s new or one to add to the others you already have). The business is set up or well established and you’re about to launch. Let’s say you do and soon afterwards you receive a nasty “cease and desist” letter asserting that you’re infringing the trade mark rights of another trader.
All that effort and money poured into the branding is dashed. What a nightmare. How deflated do you feel now having to pull back and start over with new branding. What will your customers think? All this embarrassment can be avoided with these five simple steps.
1. The branding itself. Have you chosen to go with a “word” or “catchphrase” trade mark? Maybe a logo. Have you been savvy enough to invent a word? This is your best bet as invented words have no meaning other than “as your trade mark”. Think VELCRO which is a trade mark owned by Belgium business Velcro BVBA which enjoys huge public recognition. Bear in mind that you can trade mark a number, letter, shape, scent, sound, movement, colour or even a twitter hashtag, amongst others. Unleash your creativity and come up with something distinctively representative of your product or service.
2. Correct Applicant. Often businesses comprise more than one company. Be sure that you select the correct one to hold your intellectual property. Remember that when an individual is the only Director or Shareholder of a company, even if the branding is conceived by that individual, the trade mark may be best held by the company. |
3. Appropriate protection. Think about how your branding will be used. Will it be labelling up certain products? What are those products? Will you be promoting a certain service? What is that service? Consider how these things can be described. Although it may seem obvious, often this is actually the hardest part and the boring bit. You may require expert advice. If you get this wrong then your branding may not be protected in the way you anticipated. Often the protection required is far broader than initially thought. Do you offer your products or services over the internet or by way of an APP? There are a great deal of elements to consider. If you get this wrong you risk being unable to enforce the rights you thought you had.
4. Does anyone else have rights to this branding before you? This is crucial for new branding. As mentioned above there’s no point spending money on logo designers and launches if ultimately you don’t have the rights to the trade mark. Do your searching. If you don’t have the time, patience or expertise then enlist an expert. You need to know where to look and what to look for. There’s more to it than simple Google searches. Remember you want to avoid receiving that cease and desist letter from another trader.
5. Use your trade mark. Use it or lose it. Once your trade marks are in use or registered, use them. Put them in front of as may eyes as possible. Labelling, brochures, flyers, advertising, promotions, banners, signage, uniforms, merchandise, business cards, internet presence. The lot. Then, importantly, keep records of how much you spend on the promotion of your trade marks and where and how often they have appeared in public. The more views the better. The more proof of trade mark exposure the better. Should you ever require this evidence you'll be well placed to promote and enforce your rights.
Your branding is your image, it’s what you put your time and effort into creating. Your trade marks are often the foundation stones of your business. Protect them. They’re valuable and, once your trade marks are registered, you have the exclusive right to use, license and sell the marks.
These are just some of the steps you need to take to protect your business. If you want to learn more strategies watch this one hour webinar on Trade Mark Tips for Success and hear the legal experts provide insights on getting it right.