Useful practical steps to help protect your business and use and exploit any brands that it owns.
What is a brand?
A strong brand helps distinguish a business’ products from its competitors’. It adds value to the business by enhancing consumer awareness and improving customer loyalty. A brand can be made up of many elements, including:
- A logo (Nike swish).
- A word (Kodak).
- A colour (Virgin red).
- A shape (Coca-Cola bottle).
- A strap line or jingle (The future’s bright, the future’s Orange).
- A domain name (Amazon.com).
A person’s name (David Beckham).
Brands can also be lost or devalued if they are not adequately protected; they can even be destroyed by a single remark. Gerald Ratner, CEO of the jewellery group Ratners, famously described some of his own products as “total crap”. An estimated £500 million was wiped off the value of the group and it eventually had to be completely re-branded as the Signet Group.
Creating and protecting a brand
Many elements of a brand can be protected as so-called intellectual property rights. These are legal rights that apply to creative work and, for example, prevent copying and unauthorised third party use.
- Take legal advice early on in the creative process. This will help ensure that whatever is created can be protected and does not infringe other people’s brands or other rights.
- Take great care when involving third parties, such as brand consultants or advertising agencies, in creating a brand. Make sure that they sign confidentiality agreements and transfer rights in their creative output (such as copyright) to the business.
- Carry out internet searches to check that the brand is not already being used by another company. Instruct a law firm or a trade mark attorney to conduct further searches of the relevant registries if necessary.
- Keep accurate records of the development process and date stamp these documents. This will help the business provide evidence if any infringement claim is brought against it. For example, evidence that it was created as part of an original process, rather than copied.
Part 2 of this article will look at more detailed practical steps you can take to protect your brand.
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