Why You Need to Protect Your Intellectual Property 

gigcmo
08/06/2021

We work with many businesses worldwide, and over the years, it has surprised us how many have never thought to protect their company name or even the uniqueness of their product, services or processes.
 
For many organisations, there’s a temptation to save money when starting. Or for them not to think ahead to where they may want the company to go, but the intellectual property (IP) is at the heart of any business. Some IP cannot be protected or is better not published in any form to protect its essence. Patents are government-issued protection that gives you the right to something, such as a name or product, for a set period of time and prevents others from using it. In short, it protects your business now and in the future.
 
More often than not, a company’s name is one of the most important assets it owns. However, this crucial element of their success remains unguarded. It’s only when a smart and intelligent competitor seeks to exploit this weakness, or the firm seeks to expand to new country markets, that the issue may come to light. It is one of the first things our marketing experts look at when working with a new client.

The value of trademark registration

For example, at one of our Fractional CMO Roundtables in partnership with GTM Global, we spoke to the business leaders of an iconic brand trying to undo a mistake made several years ago.
 
At the time, they considered the US a distant market for them and licenced their product and brand name without due regard to the structure of the licence or the associated IP. Over time, the UK firm lost control of the IP in its entirety. Now that they want to expand internationally, they find themselves unable to enter the US market because IP protection was not adequately valued at the outset.
 
Similarly, we have all heard the stories of brands like Hoover. They, failing to protect their trademark name early on, now find themselves unable to do so. Now the brand name has entered the common vernacular in the UK as describing any vacuum cleaner. While the word is as famous as any, its value to the brand has been a significant loss.
 
This is even more important in the digital age, and Google will not let anyone except the trademark owner buy search terms that are trademarked when notified. 
 
That also speaks to the importance of following up on any trademark infringement with a pre-prepared cease and desist letter drafted by a proficient solicitor that you can send out as required. It is a small investment and can be used many times.

How to avoid the five pitfalls of trademark protection 

In today’s competitive global marketplace, protecting your business identity has become one of the most important steps you can take. As any marketing expert will tell you, it is often one of the most overlooked parts of a brand marketing strategy. An internet-accessible world means that more information is freely available and in the public domain. It is surprisingly easy for a competitor or their interim marketing director to take advantage of your hard-earned reputation. If you’re creating a brand name and investing in that brand, protecting your business with a registered trademark is key. If you don’t, another business can create a logo similar to yours and benefit from your marketing.
 
However, it’s not just stealing copyright that’s an issue. If you do not possess a trademark, infringement may occur innocently. Whilst you or your company has the natural right to copyright in law, legal action to prevent such an infringement, known as “passing off”, can be expensive and time-consuming. 
 
Here’s how to avoid the most common pitfalls and how a Fractional CMO can help: 

Choose a memorable brand name

Sound obvious? It is important when selecting your trademark that you choose something memorable. Not only can customers more easily recall your product or service, but it also differentiates you from your competitors, and you are more likely to create advocates who recall your name and recommend you to others. You don’t need to have a marketing whisperer tell you that being memorable works when you invest in marketing.

Don’t call it what it says on the tin

Naming your brand by describing the product or service is much harder to protect under trademark laws and even harder to enforce against third parties. This is because the UK Intellectual Property Office and Intellectual Property Offices overseas will not accept descriptive marks as this would provide the trademark owner with an unfair monopoly in a word that should be left free for other traders to use in connection with their business. ‘Invented’ words like LEGO and KODAK are the easiest to protect.

Do a trademark search

Don’t assume that because you ‘invented’ a name that no one else has already thought of it. If they have, you are unlikely to be able to use it, even if you operate in a different sector. You may also innocently create a similar name to another business. You do not want to find yourself infringing someone else’s mark, particularly if you have already gone ahead and invested in promotional activities. Imagine the scenario of launching your product under the trademark and then being threatened with court proceedings because your trademark infringes another party’s.

File, file, file

So you have created your memorable and distinctive trademark and checked it is free to use. The next step is to secure that right by filing a trademark application at the Intellectual Property Office in the country you propose to operate your business or make your products or services available. Securing your trademark rights through registration is the strongest protection you can obtain. It puts you in a position to prevent a competitor or counterfeiter from stealing your custom and damaging your reputation through using your trademark or a trademark similar to it. If you don’t have the time to do this, you may consider hiring marketing experts to manage this process.

Keep your costs down

The average cost of obtaining a trademark registration in the U.K is £700. This registration runs for ten years and can be renewed for further ten year periods. However, you can do it for less, and you can do it for a lot more if you are not sure exactly how to proceed, so the advice of a fractional chief marketing officer is invaluable. It is an area in which our fractional CMO’s and CEO whisperers have a wealth of experience connecting businesses with the right resources to protect one of their most important assets. 

Thinking about the future of your business

For those who think they may be interested in expanding overseas down the line, it’s worth considering a trademark registration in critical countries and territories (they might be the USA, the UK, the EU and China, for example). Equally, for those already established but are assessing the viability of expanding their market, doing your research and development, and confirming whether you have the right to use that name in those territories is vital.
 
In short, if you think your company name has value, which it does, you should protect it. 


Watch the Video


Listen to the Audio