The importance of trade marking your brand

Registering your brand as a trademark is one of the most important decisions you make about your business. Bernard Whyatt, of Brand Protect, explains why

A brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of them) and represents a promise to your customers.

A legally protected brand name is called a trademark. The brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity - it affects the personality of a product, company or service. As such a brand can be the most important asset for any trader - just ask Coca Cola, whose brand is worth £45 billion, or McDonald's, whose brand is valued at £32 billion.

Why should you register a trademark?

  • Helps raise brand awareness.
  • Enables brand extension into other products or markets.
  • Symbolises your quality.
  • Avoids confusion with competitors.
  • Stops others from copying you.
  • Becomes a valuable asset, sometimes priceless e.g. Coca-Cola.

If you don't and someone else registers a similar name then you may be forced to:

  • Withdraw all your products.
  • Redesign all your packaging.
  • Draw up a new publicity campaign.
  • Pay compensation.
  • Buy a licence from the existing owners.
  • Be "locked out" of a foreign market place.

A well-protected and strong brand is an essential element of successful franchising, and the use of registered trademarks is fundamental to the process. Registration of a brand as a trademark creates property and, like all property, trademarks need to be built on strong foundations and must be looked after during their lifetime to ensure they continue to deliver value to your business.

People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique. A brand, so endowed, becomes one of the most valuable properties that a company can own. For all businesses there are two categories of trademark. Let's call them "type 1" and "type 2".

  • Type 1 is where the brand name describes the business offer; examples being: "Brand Protect" for brand protection, "Franchise Development Services" for franchising.
  • Type 2 brand names are unrelated to the offer and could be the owner's name or made up word, examples of this are Disney and Kodak.

The advantages of type 1 are that it is generally easier and, therefore, cheaper to explain your offer to the customer. However, the disadvantage is that there are more challenges in making your mark distinctive from the competition and, therefore, in protecting your mark.

A type 2 trademark owner needs to educate the public about the products it sells (Kodak by itself means nothing without educating the public that it is to do with photographs). This type of trade mark costs more to establish initially due to the higher market education costs but, in the long run, the trademark will be more valuable and much more protectable.

Bernard Whyatt is a Trade Mark Lawyer at Brand Protect Ltd, a niche law firm that offers advice and assistance on all aspects of trademarks law and practice, especially those of concern to franchisors. With its breadth of knowledge the company is able to advise, not only on the creation of the intellectual property but also on how to retain it. Brand Protect LLP regularly fights for the rights of franchisors in the courts and its clients rely on the company to give them best advice on all aspects of IP law in this country and abroad. Brand Protect LLP works ceaselessly for our clients to enable them to protect their brands in this country and abroad.