A small bakery, an online craft store or a consultancy service all have at least one thing in common- their brand is one of their most important assets. Regardless of what your business is, your brand is your identity, your reputation, and you should do what you can to protect it.
Under the umbrella term of ‘IP rights’, trademarks, copyright and registered designs can help businesses defend their brand against being damaged, used or misused by other companies and competitors. They are publicly searchable and therefore easier to enforce and valid registered rights will stand up in court should anyone go near or reproduce any part of your brand, they could be viewed as insurance for your brand.
Often trademarks are the go to right to protect branding, preventing any other person from using a name or brand that might be deemed ‘confusingly similar’. You can trademark a whole range of things, logos, names, images and even things such as colours and smells which are unique and distinctive to your brand. However, be prepared to have to prove that the particular aspect of your brand that you want to trademark is distinctive enough to be only be associated with you, or like Kit Kat has recently found you may be denied your trademark on the basis that it has ‘no inherent distinctiveness’.
Although trademarks are the most popular protection, there are other ways in which you can protect you brand which may be more suitable depending on your situation. Design rights for example give you exclusive rights to use a design for up to 25 years, this stops anyone from doing anything with a product to which your design is applied. The difference between this and a trademark is that the design right protects the appearance of the design, whereas a trademark acts as a badge of origin.
Another right available is copyright. Unlike the others this right doesn’t need to be registered but is automatically applied upon the creation of the product and can be enforced as long as you can provide proof that you were the first creator. Copyrighted work can include music, art, photographs, writing and much more. Find out more about copyright here.
Regardless of which approach you use to safeguard your brand it is important to understand the value of your business brand, it is also a good idea to check that what you are doing does not infringe on somebody else rights as well.