Establishing a strong brand is pivotal to the success of any business. Protecting that brand is equally important. Yet many entrepreneurs and their advisors overlook an important first step in securing their brand: Trade Marks.
Intellectual property (IP) has become one of the most important resources in the 21st century. It’s now an accepted fact that, just like financial capital or commodities or labour, IP is more than an economic asset – it also forms the basis of a global market.
The global IP market has become a major contributor to wealth and value creation worldwide. It serves to protect the interests of a hugely diverse group from individual inventors toiling in their garages to large corporate enterprises such as Coca Cola, Calvin Klein, etc.
Brand Managers are beginning to recognise that IP is an intangible asset and similar to real property – it can be bought and sold. They need to be cognisant that their IP strategy should be integrated with their business strategy – and the importance of protecting and acquiring IP as needed when entering new markets.
The terms “brand” or “brand name” are interchangeable with Trade Mark – the term used in legal circles. Of course, a product brand or a corporate brand is a much larger concept than a mere trade mark, as building a strong brand and establishing the brand equity of a business is a bigger challenge than choosing, registering, or maintaining one or more trademarks. However, the ultimate success of a brand is also judged in terms of the total value derived by the customer from the product to which it relates.
In today’s world, brand owners face the additional challenge of protecting their online brand presence, company reputation and digital assets - all of which is of fundamental importance to business success. An online brand presence is the most valuable asset to startup companies, for instance and requires thorough and continuous protection services. The digital landscape has allowed businesses to scale and grow at an unprecedented rate. However, as these brands continues to expand its global reach, the digital assets are subject to increased online threats that can ultimately damage the brand equity, reputation and integrity.
In an ideal world, brand owners and managers should ensure that they address all of the following as part of any marketing program:-
- Appreciating the basics of Trade Mark law when devising the brand;
- Conducting thorough checks to ensure that the proposed brand does not infringe the IP rights of their competitors. Here, it is advisable to conduct trade mark searches before commercializing products and services.
- Seeking to register the brand at the very start of any marketing process in order to take full advantage of the corresponding IP rights while undertaking advertising and other promotional activities.
- Ensuring that the IP rights are protected or mentioned in any advertisements and other promotional activities.
- Establishling an effective monitoring service to detect any infringement of their IP rights as this could be damaging to their business’s profits or reputation. IP rights allow you to challenge unauthorized copying, imitation and other kinds of infringement. There are laws which also provide protection against unfair competition, such as false allegations aimed at discrediting your products or services, allegations aimed at misleading the public as to the characteristics of your products and services and acts which aim at creating confusion with your products and services.
Brand owners and managers would benefit greatly from getting to grips with the advantages of legally protecting their brand and the pitfalls to avoid when devising the brand..
The purchasing decisions of consumers are constantly influenced by trade marks. As a brand owner or marketeer, it is imperative to have a solid understanding of why trade marks are so important to effective commerce.
Interested in learning more about IP? The Marketing Institute is holding an upcoming breakfast event covering Brand Protection and what you need to know about IP. More details are available here.
This article was written by Sumi Nadarajah, Partner & European Trade Mark Attorney, FRKelly.
Involved in the full spectrum of intellectual property law, Sumi counsels foreign and domestic clients in the selection and creation of effective company trade marks to enhance brand recognition and awareness, while also protecting a company’s marketplace position. She coordinates the worldwide IP portfolios of a number of leading Irish companies and also represents the trade mark interests of a broad range of SMEs and private individuals, specialising in the food and beverage and packaging sectors. Sumi has significant experience in domain name matters and her technical expertise extends to registered designs in addition to trade marks. Sumi is also periodically published in Lexology, World Trade Mark Review and various publications within the retail sector in Ireland. She currently chairs the Copyright & Designs Committee of the Association of Patents and Trade Mark Attorneys (APTMA) in Ireland and is also a member of the International Trademark Association, currently sitting on INTA`s European Anti-Counterfeiting Committee.