Strategy for protecting your trade marks and designs - general tips
You’ve come up with a great name for your product or service, you have a smart logo, and your packaging is being designed and developed. With all the careful investment in this pre-launch phase, how do you go about ensuring that your brand name, logo and branding design/get-up will be protected from copycats, infringers and competitors once you launch?
Having the right trade mark and design strategy in place, will help you establish a solid foundation for your IP assets, and ultimately best position you and your business for maximising and protecting your rights and building a successful portfolio.
Your strategy should initially identify - any trade mark and design elements that are suitable for protection, the goods and services of interest to you (in line with your current and future business plans) and the markets that will be relevant, bearing in mind any possible expansion down the line. You can then determine which searches will be appropriate before you start filing any trade mark and/or design applications.
Clearance searches are important to determine that your chosen brand name, logo and/or design are available to use and register and do not conflict with and infringe any existing rights owned by other traders or businesses.
Searching at an early stage, ideally well before launch, will give you the confidence to proceed with applications and continue with your trade mark and design plans, where no conflicting rights have been found. If searches reveal any potentially problematic existing rights, then you will need to consider whether it is best to choose an alternative name, logo, design (to save you time and money down the line from a potential re-brand), or whether any identified risks can be overcome or mitigated in some way. Avoiding any challenges and disputes before they have a chance to arise, is better in the long run, for brand reputation and also costs purposes.
Trade Mark and Design registrations give the owner the right to prevent the unauthorised use of their trade mark or design (in the country of registration) and are crucial in the fight against copycats, infringers and counterfeit goods. They can also act as a deterrent to other brand owners and competitors.
Registrations are valuable assets in terms of potential commercialisation, such as licensing deals and also when seeking investment.
Applications are filed with the relevant Trade Mark and Design Registries. Most countries have a national IP Office (e.g. UKIPO), although it is possible to file an EU-wide Trade Mark or Design Application with the EUIPO, and there is an International based system (Madrid) where countries party to the system can be designated in an Application.
Post-Registration Monitoring and Enforcement
Once Applications have been filed and Registrations obtained, it is important to pro-actively police your trade marks and designs, to prevent the dilution of your rights, help elevate the reputation of your brands/designs and to strengthen and maintain your position in the marketplace.
Having the relevant watches and monitoring services in place, will enable you to take action against any unauthorised use of your mark/design and to prevent the registration of any identical or confusingly similar trade marks.
Brand protection tips summary
1. A well thought through trade mark and design strategy at the beginning of your IP journey will help you to optimise and build a successful portfolio.
2. Clearance searching is an important process to enable you to determine whether your brand name, logo and or design image are available for use and registration.
3. Trade Mark Applications should be filed for your goods and services and in the markets, in which you plan to sell or are currently selling. If there are plans for new product or service lines and/or expansion into new markets, then these factors should also be considered as part of your filing strategy.
4. Policing your trade marks and designs, through watching and monitoring services, will help you to maintain and strengthen your rights.
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