What is branding?

In simple terms, branding is the process of quantifying the value of a company, product, or service. It is the set of characteristics, benefits, and attributes that define a particular brand. A brand encompasses the wider proprietary, visual, emotional and cultural image of the company or the specific product/service.

Trademarks & Branding

One of the first things one should strive to accomplish is finding and selecting the company's name. A thorough search should be done online in order to identify and avoid similar names. Should the company name proceed to become a registered trademark, extra precautions before registering the company name should be taken to ensure its trademark registrability. On the same page, it is worth protecting other potential trademarks that offer long-term utility, i.e. the name of a product or service. Having a vision for the future of the company will definitely help in this development.

Challenges in selection

The biggest challenge is for the legal and marketing department coming to terms in regard to the legal and marketing requirements when creating the trademarks. This is indeed a real problem. Trademark law does make it difficult for descriptive and non-distinctive names to make it through to registration, which makes a marketer's life rather complicated. This is because marketing transposes brands -meaning best by using simple and easy-to-understand words. These marketing - friendly names are often more general and descriptive than they are distinctive.

Consideration should be given to this departmental debate as well as the market power and competitive advantage that IPRs such as trademarks produce. This will maximize the chance of developing a branding strategy that is both ready to be marketed and legally protected.

Suggestions for selection

  • Choose a distinctive or unique mark - to help customers associate the mark with the products/services;
  • Do not choose a mark that is descriptive - to avoid early rejections;
  • Beware of different meanings in different languages – there by making it more appropriate if expanding to the international market;
  • Add colours and graphical elements.

Suggestions for maintaining trademark protection after registration

Trademark protection can be lost in various ways. One of the most common ways is when the mark no longer distinguishes the product or service from those of other undertakings. This is commonly known as genericization i.e. when a trademark becomes generic.

Design and marketing departments should be cautious when designing and marketing a trademark as it is very easy for a trademark to fall into this trap. The trademark will most likely not become generic (as did Aspirin, Escalator and Cellophane) when the trademark is used as an adjective. Therefore, when referring to a product, follow the suggested trademark with a noun or generic term e.g. 'That is a Kleenex tissue'. Do not use a trademark as the generic term for your product e.g. 'Please hand me a Kleenex'. In this way the trademark remains differentiated.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.