Your business brand is how your customers and the general public are able to easily distinguish you from your competitors. Your reputation as a company is connected to your business name, logo or even your slogan, so it is vital that you protect these identifiable elements of your image in order to prevent other companies from stealing them and damaging your business. As well as the more traditional aspects of brand protection such as copyrighting and registering your company at Companies House, there are some additional steps you can take to safeguard your business property in the digital world.
It is possible to protect your business property within the UK by registering it as a trademark at the Intellectual Property Office. If you choose to register it under the Madrid Protocol, then it will additionally be protected in all countries that are signatories to this deal. It takes approximately 4-6 months to get your trademark registered.
As well as protecting your intellectual property with trademarks, copyrights or patenting, don’t forget to shield the content of your web pages from online theft. You can fill out an application on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) site for free. This will allow you to display a protection badge on your site signifying that the DMCA will act on your behalf on one ‘takedown’ case per year.
Although there is a huge focus on the virtual world today, it is real products that are still mostly affected by brand theft. A 2011 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that pirated products cost companies around $250 billion globally. This represented an increase in fake goods of over 50% in just 4 years between 2007 and 2011.
Mike Fairley, co-author of the Encyclopedia of Brand Protection and Security Printing Technology, says that counterfeiters are targeting just about every type of product today, and often consumers are unaware that they are buying counterfeit goods. You can read more of his report here.
One solution is to modernise the label manufacturing process to build-in security and brand protection features, within the label, printing or packaging. Possible options include:
New methods are being developed all the time, which are now referred to as “smart label” solutions.
The challenge for business is twofold: First, product manufacturers and label designers to develop and implement futureproof solutions, second, consumers need to be better educated about counterfeit goods. One of the biggest challenges is combating the sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet, where labels cannot be examined before the goods are received.
Online retailers, such as eBay, do now offer a money back guarantee if counterfeit goods are purchase. However, consumers still need to know how to spot the counterfeit.
Perhaps the quickest and best way to protect your business brand name is by actively using it so that the brand is established with customers. This would enable courts to see that you have legal rights associated with it. In order to ‘use’ your brand name, send out correspondence on letter-headed paper including your name and logo on it, have quality labels printed and take out online or paper ad space.
Finally, if you are in the unfortunate position of needing to take action against infringers, be sure to do so promptly. Courts are more likely to rule in favour of businesses who acted immediately against the infringement. Delaying the process simply shows that you have accepted the violation.
Tammy Wiltshire works for the leading UK custom label manufacturer, Labelnet, based in Ongar, Essex. Labelnet design and manufacture high quality branded labels, stickers and packaging.