Trade marking is a legal method of protecting your brand or company name. In this article we discuss why as an entrepreneur, it is important that you should consider trade marking your brand.
Trademarks are a form of IP (Intellectual Property) protection. Owning intellectual property gives you a legal right over the name of a brand, the ideas written down or the things that are designed. Owning intellectual property rights gives you the legal clout to prevent someone stealing your names, writing and designs.
Most importantly owning intellectual property gives you the right to make money from those intellectual property rights. So you can see, it’s important that every entrepreneur considers their IP early on in the start-up process.
There are different forms of IP protection of which Trade marks form one element. Different forms of IP protection include:
Depending on the type of intellectual property you own, you should select the correct type of intellectual property protection. A trade mark can protect a brand name or company name, whereas copyright would protect an original essay, novel or song. A patent would protect for example, an original invention.
Owning intellectual property rights in any of these would give you legal protection from anyone using or stealing these properties. If someone wanted to use these properties you would have every right to charge them for the property you own. Many companies make considerable sums of money by licensing their IP to manufacturers to make branded tee-shirts, merchandise etc. View licensing as a way to ‘rent’ out your IP to someone for a limited time in exchange for a fee (royalty).
There is a common misconception amongst entrepreneurs that simply registering a domain name or registering their business as a corporate body is a form of protecting their brand. Put plainly, this is simply incorrect.
If you have a particularly unique brand name, by all means secure the domain names and form the corporate entity but be aware that this alone will not prevent an individual from using a similar or exactly the same name! If you want solid legal protection you will need to trade mark your brand name.
Also, bear in mind there are some entrepreneurs who have formed a new company and begun marketing their brand only to be slapped with a lawsuit because they have infringed someone else’s trade mark. This then results in having to scrap all the marketing materials, domain names and create new ones. All of this costs money and as entrepreneurs, money is often in short supply! It’s also worth mentioning that investors will often look on favourably at start-ups who have their IP sorted and fully protected thus avoiding the problems mentioned.
The Power of Trade marks – Marvel and DC Entertainments INC
As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced first-hand the power of trade marks. I will explain how protecting my brand name via a trade mark gave me the legal clout to protect and win over a multi-billion dollar media company!
The media company in question was Marvel and DC Entertainment Inc. Most people are aware of their brands; they are creators of Superman, Batman and the entire Marvel Universe. So, I am not exaggerating when I say these guys were and still are huge.
Way back in 2013, I was putting together a book, a start-up manual for entrepreneurs called Business Zero to Superhero. In the process of writing the book ,I thought it would be prudent to trade mark the brand name “Zero to Superhero”. In order to protect a rather unique brand name, or so I thought.
Fast forward a year or so (2014), I had enrolled in a graduate program to study Business Law (LLB) and out of the blue, I received a cease and desist letter and an opposition to my trade mark.
Marvel and DC were claiming that my trade mark “Zero to Superhero”, was an infringement on their existing mark, “Superheroes”. A two year battle ensued and finally (2016) Marvel and DC backed down and I retained the trade mark!
Trade mark Success
But why did I win?
In my opinion, first and foremost registering the trade mark, gave me legal clout to pursue my assertion that ‘Zero to Superhero’ was an original brand not easily confused with the marks of Marvel and DC. An unregistered mark would find it difficult to protect itself against claims from Marvel and DC regarding infringement. In fact many small publishers had previously been forced to back down and remove the word “Superheroes” from their published works.
By registering my mark, Marvel and DC had to follow the process of the Intellectual Property Office (IP protection in the UK) rather than simply issuing a cease and desist from their heavyweight lawyers.
Secondly, in my opinion Marvel and DC are in a bit of a legal bind with their trademark “Superheroes”. By definition you can only trademark a name that is unique and is not common in everyday use or ‘generic’. Many argue and I agree that “Superheroes” is indeed a generic term that should not have been registered in the first instance. This may be the reason why Marvel & DC backed down rather than test the case in court.
So there, you have it. Seriously consider registering your brand. Once you have successfully trade marked you can display the ® symbol next to it, to denote a fully trademarked registration.
Please note, this article is not a substitute for legal advice, always seek advice about your particular case from a qualified lawyer in your jurisdiction.
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