Brands, technology and good design - a winning combination

Brand loyalty, products that work well, and merchandise that looks good are key tools in the fight for market share. But how can franchises protect these vital assets, as well as secure an advantage over their competitors?

In all businesses, brand names are key to attracting new customers and maintaining your reputation in the marketplace. Consumers will often pay more for branded products. Brands are particularly important in the franchise sector, being at the heart of what drives customers to the brand, and what attracts potential franchise owners to invest in a franchise opportunity. Central to brand protection is the use of Registered Trademarks.

These registrations give you the sole right to use a particular name or logo in relation to the products and services that you offer. But in order to qualify for registration, the name or logo must be distinctive, and not merely descriptive of what you have to offer. A Trademark Attorney can advise you on what can be registered. And don’t forget that you can register not only your company name and logo, but also the names you use for particular product lines. If you are looking to buy a franchise, check that the brands are well-protected. And if you own the Master Franchise, don’t forget to make sure that your brand protection is up-to-date – it’s at the heart of your offer to potential franchise owners.

Many businesses, including some franchises, have technology as part of their offer. It may be as simple as a new gadget or device, or perhaps a method for doing something, like repairing a car windscreen or cleaning drains. If the device or method is new, it could well be protected by a patent. Patents are not just granted for high-technology and could be a key asset in developing and maintaining your market share. If you develop something new, it’s worth checking it out with a Patent Attorney. Do this before you tell others about it, as any public disclosure can destroy your chances of protection.

It’s often said that good products should not only work, but should look as though they work. Good design goes hand-in-hand with good technology and a strong brand. While patents can protect the way something works, and Trademarks protect what they are called, Design Registrations protect what a product looks like. Design Registrations can be used not only for 3D objects but also graphic logos and surface decoration. As long as the design is new, and isn't just dictated by the way it works, then Design Registration should be available. It’s relatively cost-effective and the protection it gives can last for 25 years. Even if you have your technology protected with a patent, you need to be able to stop competitors producing similar-looking but technically inferior products not covered by your patent – that’s when you need design protection.

Although they overlap to a certain extent, these three forms of Intellectual Property – Trademarks, Patents and Design Registrations – all have different functions, but can work together to give market advantage to your business.

Reported by Peter Wilson