The recommended form of brand protection depends on the stage and ambitions of individual companies. While it may be unnecessary for a local barbershop to register its trademark on a global scale, a different approach is advisable to a software company with international presence. This article presents an overview of the key stages and associated recommendations for effective brand protection.
Stage 1: New business idea and the choice of a brand name
The choice of a brand name represents a key step in any entrepreneurial effort. It is the name that will resonate with your future customers. From our experience, emerging businesses tend to focus solely on the availability of hosting domains when considering various creative options. Our recommendation is to include an additional check in the form of assessing the risk associated with trademark registration, allowing you to avoid future difficulties and rebranding once the business idea takes off.
There are two main components to this assessment. First, the underlying definition of a trademark reveals that it needs to have the capability to distinguish a company’s offering in the eyes of the consumer. This means that generic and descriptive terms, such as “Pizza Milano” or “Best Haircuts”, should be avoided. The inclusion of a visual element in the form of a logo also helps enhance the distinctiveness of a brand.
The second component of the assessment takes the form of similarity screening, exploring the extent to which the new brand can be considered identical or similar to trademarks that have already been registered. This step is crucial as it mitigates the potential risk of rebranding since the owners of registered trademarks have the legal right to issue cease and desist letters to brands that seemingly infringe their image and reputation.
Trademark registration on a national level is also highly recommended at this stage as it will mitigate the risk of future complications whilst keeping the costs associated with brand protection to a minimum.
Stage 2: Ambitions and funding options
Planning ahead for the future is always advisable for emerging companies. Any plans of future international expansion can provide valuable input into the formulation of a brand protection strategy.
Moreover, the choice of a funding strategy also influences the brand protection strategy. Trademark registration is a basic requirement for gaining access to capital from investors as well as through crowdfunding platforms.
Stage 3: Initial market success
In case you have not already done so, this is the point in time at which you should definitely register the trademark in countries in which you operate. Having achieved an initial market success is a strong signal for potential copycats who may wish to benefit from the good reputation you have built around the brand. Trademark registration prevents such attempts and ensures easy resolution of any potential conflicts.
Stage 4: Continuous growth and international expansion
With 20-30% of the market value of brands being derived solely from the brands themselves (The Economist), trademark registration provides an effective method for protecting this key asset. International expansion should be associated with a corresponding expansion of the brand protection strategy, ensuring that your trademark is protected in all countries in which you operate, or plan to establish the presence in the future.
Stage 5: Well-established business
Well-established businesses with trademarks registered in all countries in which they operate should continuously monitor any infringement attempts and respond promptly. While trademark registration is a key precondition for brand protection, continuous monitoring is needed to identify potential threats and mitigate these infringement efforts. There are several services available that monitor new trademark applications, hosting domains, social media and online marketplaces, offering a highly convenient solution for this challenge. Trama's trademark management platform, with our brand monitoring add-on, is one of these solutions.