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Top 5 tips for protecting your brand

Protecting your brand is vital to ensure that you preserve and maximise its value. Matt Cormack and Bill Goodwin, Partners in the Commercial team at Ward Hadaway, give their top 5 brand protection tips.

1.    Do your homework

Before you take any steps to commercialise your brand, have you checked whether anyone else is using that brand name for similar products or services? You should carry out a thorough check online to see if anyone is operating under the same or a similar brand.

You should also search the trade mark register in all countries where you will use the brand, or commission a trade mark professional to do this for you.

It is much easier to change your brand at the outset than to waste time and money in a brand change within a few months of trading.

It is also worth taking some initial advice at this point to see if your brand is capable of being registered as a trade mark.

2.    Be distinctive

A brand name that is distinctive (and not descriptive of your products) is much easier to protect through obtaining a registered trade mark, and often becomes more recognisable because of its originality (for example “Apple” to describe computers/mobile phones or “Orange” to describe a telecoms network).

Brands that “do what they say on the tin” can be extremely difficult to protect.  So “The Taxi Company” for a taxi business would not be a strong brand, or registerable as a trade mark.

3.    Make sure you own the rights to your brand

When you enter into contracts with third parties who are not your employees, the law generally says that those third parties will own any intellectual property they create, unless the contract says otherwise.

It is therefore important to have a contract that effectively assigns intellectual property in your brand to you (for example if you contract with a designer who works on your logo and corporate branding).

4.    Actively protect your brand

In principle, a brand can be protected by a registered trade mark. Consider your brand protection strategy: which countries are you looking for protection in? What is the cost and time implication of obtaining registered trademarks? Ensure that you assert your rights in your brand – if your trade mark is registered you can use ®, if not you can use ™.

5.    Use the brand and deal with infringements

To maintain value in your brand, you should ensure that you use it in a consistent manner.

If you register a trademark and do not use it in business, the registration can be challenged or revoked.

You should also have a policy for checking for infringing trademarks and brands.

One advantage of having a registered trademark is that you will be notified if someone seeks to register a similar mark against a similar class of goods.

However, others may not seek a registration, so it is just as important to carry out regular internet searches and consider other areas where your brand may be copied (for example company names and domain names).

For more information on the issues raised, please get in touch with Matt or Bill.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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