Your brand is your most valuable asset

Oct 01, 2006

It is the equivalent in business of adopting a company name (or logo) into which they are about to sink their life savings and using it without ensuring that there are no similar registered trade marks and not taking the simple precaution of registering your brand with the trade mark office.

Most marketeers will argue that brands are the most valuable asset of many businesses – from sole on-line traders to multi-national public companies. It is how customers reach that business, through word of mouth, searching directories or hunting for the right label on the supermarket shelves.

Whether your business is manufacturing widgets or a high street fast food outlet or an advertising agency or a famous designer, the one thing they all have in common is a business name or trade mark.
Whatever you choose to call it – most prefer the term ‘brand’ – the fact remains that it is and should be unique to that business. The brand is the guarantee that this is your company and your product.

The misconceptions and lack of proper planning when it comes to safeguarding a company’s brand is shocking. Business people in the UK have failed to get to grips with branding in the 21st century.

This was highlighted most recently on the TV program Dragons Den – the reality venture capital show, where an entrepreneur was asking for a substantial sum to grow his business which was thriving but needed to expand into new areas. The prospect for growth was clear to all and the entrepreneur had invested a good deal of time, labour and personal income.

When asked by one of the shrewd Dragons what steps had been taken to protect the name, the answer was: “I have the domain name and registered the company name”.
This seemed to satisfy the Dragon.

However this demonstrated the two most common misconceptions that registering at Companies House and obtaining the domain name are sufficient. Neither do the job of protecting the name. Such registrations merely guarantee that the identical word will not be registered as either a company name or domain name.

Consider the potential consequences if a new competing business uses a similar name or logo to yours. However, they register the name and logo with the Community Trade Mark Register and you haven’t.

Even though you might have been in business for years, with a strong established brand, the new company could take you to court and force you to change your name and you lose your brand and all its values in which you have invested both time and money in developing. The consequences would be devastating.

It is often overlooked that the legal territory for trade marks is enormous – the Community Register is for everyone and covers all 25 member countries. Many USA and overseas companies, which are far more clued up on this issue than most UK businesses, protect their names on the Community Trade Mark register.

Another misconception is that it is too costly to research and register. The UK Trade Mark Office and Community Trade Mark Office data bases are on-line and free.

But, to have a professional search and for the legal risks to be evaluated by shopping around with trade mark attorneys, the fees can be as little as £200.

Trade Mark registration is a statutory monopoly ensuring the right to the exclusive use for that name or logo or any similar name for the same goods or services or similar goods and services for a period of ten years, will cost as little as £200 (the government fee).

If you use a professional to draft the specifications and guide the trade mark through the various procedures, the fee can be less than £400.

It is a small price to pay to protect your most valuable company asset.

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