In the rush to launch a new business, product or service, businesses often fail to consider trademark protection for key elements of their branding. Laura Morrish shares eight reasons for starting the trademark process early in the brand creation process.
Choosing the right moment to file a trademark can be tricky for brand owners. Register it too early and you could potentially fall foul of trademark use requirements; register it too late and you could be exposing your valuable brand assets to the risk of unauthorised use by third parties. But, even if you choose to wait to file your trademark application, that doesn't mean you should delay considering trademark protection in the first place.
As soon as you, or your creatives, come up with the idea for a brand name or logo, trademark searches should be carried out to establish whether that trademark is even available for use and registration in respect of the relevant goods or services. This will give a clear indication of whether the mark that you have chosen might face challenges from third parties. You may also wish to consider trademark or design protection for related brand elements (such as logos, packaging, slogans...) at this early stage.
Trademark protection: Reasons to register your trademark now
Depending on your strategy, your trademark application(s) should be filed as soon as you begin preparations for the product or business launch. Here are our eight reasons why:
1. It makes it easier to fight off copycats
A trademark registration provides a much stronger right to enforce against third parties than relying on other unregistered rights, such as unregistered trademarks or copyright. This is because there is a clear date from when protection started and the scope of protection is set out in the specification.
2. It minimises the risk
While the results of your initial trademark search might indicate that risk using and registering your chosen mark is low, this situation can quickly change as applications are continuously being filed. In the interim period, between searching and filing, it is possible that a third party might apply to register the same/a similar trademark for the same/similar goods or services which would block the use and registration of your mark.
3. It can save you money
Sometimes trademark registrations can be unsuccessful because they are opposed by third parties. If an opposition is successful, you might be forced to rebrand. If you are only at the early stages of preparing your product or services, the cost to rebrand is likely to be considerably less than if you are further down the line – or have even got as far as launching your product or service to the public. You also reduce the risk of infringement if these issues come to light before your trademark is in use.
4. It adds value to your business
Intangible assets, such as trademark registrations, are taken into consideration when valuing a business. If you are planning to sell, move on from your business or secure financing, it would show good due diligence to have had the correct registrations in place for the lifetime of the business or product.
5. It gives you the 'takedown' power
Owning a registered trademark also gives you access to greater protection from infringement on online marketplaces and social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram. On these platforms, a registered trademark provides grounds for requesting 'takedowns' and is a requirement for access to Amazon's Online Brand Registry.
6. It enables you to expand internationally
Once you have filed your application in your country or region, any later filings you make in other jurisdictions for the same trademark could benefit from the same date of protection. For example, in the UK, applicants benefit from a 'priority period' of six months in which they can file foreign trademark applications that will benefit from protection from the same UK filing date.
7. It gives you priority over later applicants
By filing your first application before you launch your product or service, you minimise the risk that a third party will make pre-emptive filings for your mark or similar marks. Such filings would give them priority over your right to use the name, allowing them to ride on the back of your future success and/or block your use and registration of the mark both at home and abroad.
8. It enables you to stop others registering your mark
In contrast, if you launch your product or service and it is an overnight success, but you have not yet obtained trademark protection, you might find that third parties have registered it and there is little that you can do to get it back from a legal perspective. This might result in you having to pay over the odds to purchase rights for your mark or force you to rebrand.
Trademark registrations help to protect your brand online
In our digital age, products are reaching global audiences and consumers far quicker than ever before. This has not only increased the value of branding, but also exposes companies to potential threats in the form of copycats, counterfeiters and trademark 'squatters'. In light of these threats, it is even more important that the correct trademark protection is in place as early as possible in the development of a brand and certainly before the product or service upon which they are to be used is launched.
To discover best practices when selecting trademarks, download our helpful flyer '7 steps to creating a strong brand'.
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.