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How to establish and maintain your brand.

By Alex Shiel, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property at Ward Hadaway MANY of the companies in this year's Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 have succeeded in growing their businesses by establishing and investing in brands for their products and services.

The value of a successful brand cannot be over-estimated - for example, would the likes of Apple and Starbucks be where they are today without having distinctive and recognisable brands? However, such success does not come overnight, and careful thought and investment is needed at every stage to ensure that a brand does its job well.

There are many elements to making a brand succeed, but here are five key areas which you should address when looking to maximise the value of your brand: 1. Do your homework As with many things in business, preparation is key to brand success.

Before you take any steps to commercialise your brand, have you checked whether anyone else is using that brand name for similar products or services? You should carry out a thorough check online to see if anyone is operating under the same or a similar brand.

You should also search the trade mark register, not just in the UK but in all countries where you will use the brand, or commission a trade mark professional to do this for you.

Don't be too committed to a particular name or word for your brand before you launch it - after all, it is much easier to change your brand at the outset than to waste time and money in a brand change within a few months of trading.

In addition, it is worth taking some initial legal advice from an experienced intellectual property lawyer at this point to see if your brand is capable of being registered as a trade mark. This could really pay dividends further down the line when it comes to commercialising your brand and creating value from it.

2. Be distinctive Having a distinctive brand not only helps you to stand out from the crowd.

A brand name that is distinctive (and not descriptive of your products) is much easier to protect through obtaining a registered trade mark, and often becomes more recognisable because of its originality (for example "Apple" to describe computers/mobile phones or "Orange" to describe a telecoms network).

Less common names will also help when customers look to find your product or service on the internet by using your brand as a search term.

At the other end of the scale, brands that "do what they say on the tin" can be extremely difficult to protect. So "The Taxi Company" for a taxi business would not be a strong brand, or registerable as a trade mark.

3. Make sure you own the rights to your brand This is an important thing to consider when you are developing your brand and working with other companies, such as graphic designers or web developers, to create and market it.

When you enter into contracts with third parties who are not your employees, the law generally says that those third parties will own any intellectual property they create, unless the contract says otherwise.

It is therefore important to have a contract that effectively assigns intellectual property in your brand to you (for example if you contract with a designer who works on your logo and corporate branding).

This is again where it is important to get advice from legal professionals experienced in advising on intellectual property issues.

4. Actively protect your brand In principle, a brand can be protected by a registered trade mark. If you register your brand as a trade mark you obtain the exclusive right to use that trade mark in relation to the products or services listed in your trade mark application. This means that you can prevent anybody else from using an identical trade mark in relation to those goods or services.

You can also prevent others from using confusingly similar names.

Consider your brand protection strategy: which countries are you looking for protection in? What is the cost and time implication of obtaining registered trademarks? Ensure that you assert your rights in your brand - if your trade mark is registered you can use (r), if not you can use . An important point to note when considering brand protection is that registered trade marks are also recognised as "property" and can have substantial value in their own right. For instance, the Coca Cola brand is reputedly worth more than $70 billion.

5. Use the brand and deal with infringements To maintain value in your brand, you should ensure that you use it in a consistent manner.

If you register a trade mark and do not use it in business, the registration can be challenged or revoked.

You should also have a policy for checking for infringing trade marks and brands.

One advantage of having a registered trade mark is that you will be notified if someone seeks to register a similar mark against a similar class of goods.

However, others may not seek a registration, so it is just as important to carry out regular internet searches and consider other areas where your brand may be copied, such as in company names and internet domain names.

In an increasingly crowded global marketplace, brands are becoming more and more important, not just for major multinationals but also for businesses ranging from start-ups and early stage companies to established firms.

Taking the right approach to brands - and getting the right advice - could help your business on the path to even greater growth.

| For more information on the issues raised by this article, please contact Alex Shiel at or on 0191 204 4296.

Taking the right approach to brands - and getting the right advice - could help your business on the path to even greater growth
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Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 11, 2017
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