Remember to keep your trademark portfolio up to date

Protection of brand names and logos is at the heart of any successful franchise operation and brand image plays a key role in attracting customers to your business.

As in the fashion world, business images and logos change over the years. Sometimes the changes are subtle: tweaking the font here and there, simplifying the logos for cleaner web presentation or updating the colours to give a more modern image.

While the individual changes may be small, the cumulative effect can be dramatic. It is easy to forget that your trademark registrations can quickly become out of date.

The Trade Marks Act allows third parties to apply to have marks removed from the Register if they haven't been used for some time. It really is a case of “use it or lose it”.

For example, in a recent courtroom battle between ASDA and Specsavers, ASDA successfully had their rival’s “black spectacles” Community Trade Mark revoked because it hadn’t been used.

If your only protection is for your old trademarks, and you don’t use them in that form any more, there’s a risk you might lose them, leaving you with no protection. So, when you update your logos and brands, you need to check whether your trademark registrations need a spring-clean as well.

And are the services or products you offer exactly the same as you offered five years ago? Ten years ago?

If your business has diversified, your existing trademark registrations could well be out of date – they are limited by the services you specified when the mark was registered.

J.C. Bamford Excavators has had its well-known JCB logo registered for excavators since 1958, but with their good name offering brand-crossover opportunities, trademark coverage was extended in 1994 to include clothing, toys, power tools and even razors. In 2003, protection was even extended to cover financial services. In the intervening 36 years, the logo has been updated and re-registered as well. Do you need to add to your list of goods and services?

You might also have introduced some new brand names, perhaps for new services or new products. These should also be protected to keep your business safe. Like all valuable property, your trademarks need to be maintained to keep them up to date and give you the protection you need. They could be your biggest asset.

At ip21, we have a team of Trade Mark Attorneys who can assist you at all stages throughout the life of your brand. ip21 offers the full range of intellectual property services expected from a leading patent and trademark firm, plus additional business and design advice services.

Reported by Sarah Dacre

Sarah Dacre (pictured top) is a Trade Mark Specialist at ip21, based in London and Norwich and prides itself on providing clear and commercially relevant advice of the highest quality. Its aim is to ensure its clients make well-informed, strategic decisions so the client can achieve its main goal of developing a franchise operation to its full potential.

*The JCB logos are registered Trade Marks of J C Bamford Excavators Ltd. The use of these logos to illustrate this article is not intended to imply any link between JCB and ip21 ltd.