As your business grows and reaches more people, and there is a positive increase in your sales trend, your venture might also face risks. One of the biggest problems many entrepreneurial brands face nowadays is losing their business rights and intellectual property.
Understanding your brand direction is crucial in the early stages of business development. A clear brand direction not only communicates the company’s core values and mission but also sets the tone for future expansion and partnerships. While trademark, patent, and copyright play a pivotal role in safeguarding the intellectual property, a well-defined brand direction ensures that everyone, from stakeholders to consumers, understands and aligns with the brand’s vision. It acts as a compass, guiding the brand’s decisions and ensuring that all efforts are driving towards a unified goal.
You don’t want your effort, time, investment, and resources to go to waste just because you didn’t protect your brand. This might seem unfair, but in the harsh and rigid business world, not having the proper papers to protect your company can allow competitors to challenge and hinder your company’s growth. Many significant inventions and businesses have been lost due to this failure in securing their company.
Brand protection is the most effective way to protect your business from this risk. This is a process and a set of actions that you, the owner and right holder of the company, can do to prevent competitors and third parties from using your product and its intellectual property without acquiring proper permission from you.
There are many reasons why businesses should secure and protect their brand from imitators. You want to avoid possible loss of revenue, brand and product defamation, and damage to your consumer’s trust.
Counterfeits and phonies not only can copy your company’s idea, but they can also make a lesser quality of your product. Without proper brand protection, this situation can ruin your company and brand.
Under brand protection, a product’s trademark, patent, and copyright are validly recognized, and the owner has the rights to it according to law.
Protecting Your Brand’s Intellectual Property
The law provides legal measures to allow rightful inventors and owners to protect their products and businesses. The goal is to ensure that the benefits and revenue will go to the rightful owner of the product or service. Before taking a big step in the market, some of the essential steps to take are to secure your product’s trademark, patent, and copyright.
Trademarks are widely used in protecting brand names and corporate logos. A trademark includes a symbol, word, phrase, or design which identifies a specific product and allows it to be uniquely recognized and differentiated from others. The trademark protects the provider for services instead of a product, also known as a service mark.
Aside from verbatim words, this is also efficient in protecting products from copycats or bootlegs, prohibiting the ‘likelihood of confusion’ from the original, existing product.
With this, making or using a design or representation of a business with similarities and resemblances to pre-existing trademarked products is forbidden. This is especially effective if the product or service is in a similar industry, making it an important step to file a trademark as soon as possible and request a trademark filing extension if you have to.
Once a trademark holder recognizes and has grounds to believe a product or service has violated these, they have the right to sue, and the court can decide whether or not a violation was committed. The copycat is usually fined for trademark infringement.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (UPSTO) defines a patent as the grant of a property right to the inventor issued by their office. This safeguards the invention for a specific time and allows the inventor to produce the product without fear of having a competitor.
There are three types of patent issues depending on the type of invention:
- The utility patent prevents other individuals or companies from making, using, or selling an invented or innovated product without the original creator’s consent. It is valid for 20 years after application and is regularly maintained by fees.
- Plant patents protect the genetic and critical characteristics of plants produced and developed by a company or an individual from being copied, sold, and used. They are only applicable to asexually reproducing plants.
- The design patent applies to significant details of a manufactured product, including key elements that are unique to it and contributes to its identity.
There are more useful resources online, so make sure that you familiarize yourself with the nature of patent registration.
A copyright can protect the original artist by giving them the sole right to own intangible works such as art, literature, music, and architecture. Therefore, the original artist is the only one who can claim to display, share, perform, or add a license to their work. Any work is considered owned by the person who initially thought about it and translated it to tangible forms such as paper, a record, or an artwork.
However, the original artist can only have legal claims over it in case of copyright infringement if it is appropriately registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The ‘fair use’ clause is the degree of distribution allowed for copyrighted material for academic or news reporting purposes.
Having a publisher and selling your work can also be a different case; the publisher or the company usually gets the rights if it is work-related. There are many definitions of the scope of copyright, and owners need to know these to protect their work.
Ways To Protect Your Brand
As a company owner, making sure that your business is appropriately protected against counterfeiting is a required step that you need to take, especially once your business starts growing. Some of the ways to protect your company from these risks are:
Avoid Drastic Changes In Your Company’s Logo Or Quality
As your business grows, the target audience and the population who recognizes your brand will also grow. As your brand and image age, it’s best to have a consistent and recognizable image.
As much as possible, and if not needed, avoid changing your product’s look drastically. A big change can confuse your customers and make them unfamiliar with the design. At the same time, avoid changes that can affect the quality of your product, as this can ruin the trust placed by your consumers in the first place.
An example is the 2010 logo change made by the clothing company Gap, making the brand unrecognizable to many users and costing them $100 million due to this rebranding.
Reconsider Carefully Before Moving To New Market
A brand must innovate and expand to stay caught up with the ever-changing, developing market. This is the case of Nokia, which lost to modern smartphones and iPhones due to the rising trend in public demand.
However, moving too quickly to a new market without carefully studying the market’s demand and culture may also lead to significant losses. This is the same reason why Home Depot closed in China. Unfortunately, the demand for their products was not structured for the population of the country.
Not being in the right market could cause your company’s stability to be vulnerable. Competitors may target your product and business. Worst-case scenario, they may even steal your original ideas and innovations.
Use Your Brand As Much As Possible
Many small, unknown businesses lose their trademark claims to larger companies even though they may be the original owner or inventor, as their brands are less well-known than their competitor.
At the same time, the law states that the claims you can get in case of suing those who try to infringe your trademark have a better chance of being in your favor if more people recognize and set it apart from its bootleg distinctly. Therefore, your claims on the trademark get stronger as more people recognize and use it.
Another point to remember is that you must use your company’s brand within five years of being registered as a trademark. Otherwise, it can be rightfully removed, and you can lose the intellectual rights to the product.
Use Social Media And The Internet As Much As Possible
The internet can be risky for companies and their intellectual properties as it is easy to download and modify information nowadays on the worldwide web. Still, a company can also use social media and websites to its advantage.
It is best to buy as many internet domains related to your product as possible, including .org and .net versions of your .com and others. This can prevent copycat companies or online scammers from using your product name to create a fake website.
This case happened to one of the biggest Hollywood franchises, Marvel. They forgot to purchase the domain for their 2018 movie ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ Some curious fans looked up the movie online and got redirected to a prank Deadpool website. Though harmless, this only shows how important it is to have your domains related to your company directly.
Bid On Your Brand On Online Searches
Another way to protect and promote your company’s brand is by bidding them as a keyword on search engines such as Google and Bing. This puts your company in a higher spot when a user searches the business name, allowing them to access the right site.
One challenge you may encounter, especially when your brand is starting to grow, is that competitors will try to bid on your specific keyword, so make sure you bid yours on a higher spot.
One of the many struggles businesses face nowadays is protecting their brand from those who want to steal their intellectual property and destroy the competition. Competition makes it risky for many products and services, and legal claims can make or break a company whether the petitioner is the original owner.
If you own a company and want to ensure its future and security, be knowledgeable about legal ways of protecting your intellectual property, such as using trademarks, copyrights, and patents. At the same time, consider ways to protect your brand such that it is still continuously innovating but at a safe, steady pace to ensure your company’s progress.