Business Essentials – Article

In this article, Truro-based IP specialist NJ Akers & Co. provides some practical guidance for business owners on the importance of taking proactive steps to protect their Intellectual Property (IP), and in particular their brand assets.

It is very likely that your business relies on one or more brand assets, such as names and logos to identify and distinguish it from competitors. If utilised effectively, these brand assets will carry with them and reinforce the goodwill and reputation of your business. The good repute of a business is often accrued through significant investment, for example in developing and providing innovative and high-quality goods and services and through the implementation of successful marketing strategies.

Businesses at all stages need to be mindful that competitors can and will seek to capitalise on these investments by copying or otherwise taking advantage of poorly protected brand assets. Protecting these assets, for example by registering your names and logos as trade marks, will not only make them much easier to defend, but will also deter would-be infringers, thus preventing disputes altogether. This will ultimately save your business money and protect it from reputational damage and erosion of its goodwill.

It is therefore important to take proactive steps to protect your brand in every commercially relevant country or region. This should be done as early as possible and reviewed regularly to ensure your brand protection is up to date and fit for purpose. It is helpful, when considering if and where protection is required, to ask how it would impact your business if a third party were to use an identical or confusingly similar brand in a particular country or region.

While dealing with infringers can be frustrating and costly enough, there are some bad actors who will seek to exploit gaps in your IP protection without having any intention of using these assets themselves.

For example, it is not uncommon in some countries for so-called ‘trade mark squatters’ to register the brand names and logos of UK businesses, in anticipation of those businesses entering their market. A business may then find that, upon trying to register its IP rights in a new market, someone else has already done so.

Trade mark squatters can not only frustrate your efforts to protect and use your own rights, but in the worst case scenario can demand significant sums of money to relinquish the trade mark to you. It is therefore important when protecting your IP rights to consider which countries, if not major markets now, may be of commercial interest as your business grows, and to secure your rights in these regions as soon as is practicably possible.

In addition to registering your IP rights, it is also important to consider acquiring related assets such as domain names, which may be essential to the successful exploitation of those rights in relevant markets. For example, you might consider registering your domain name in a variety of generic top level domains, such as .com and .net domains. This will prevent so called ‘cyber squatters’ from acquiring these domain names and attempting to sell them back to your business at a vastly inflated price.

Our team at N. J. Akers & Co. can help you with both the identification and protection of your IP rights. From brand and design protection to patenting new technologies, we are well placed to help you develop, maintain, and exploit a robust IP portfolio.

Should you find that your business has been targeted by trade mark or cyber squatters, we also have experience in successfully cancelling trade marks registered in bad faith, both in the UK and overseas, and in settling domain name disputes on favourable terms for our clients.

Please contact us by phone or email, if you would like to know more.

+44 (0)1872 266810

J. Akers & Co is a firm of Chartered Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys established in Cornwall for over 20 years. The firm represents clients throughout the South West, the wider UK, Europe, North America, and Asia, and assists clients with all of their IP needs, from obtaining and enforcing patents, designs, and trade marks, to resolving copyright and domain name disputes.