Updated: Sep 13, 2021
By: Tanya Mehta & Anamika Jha
Louis Vuitton, Prada, Zara, Hermes, Mc' Donalds, Gucci, Burger King, Pizza Hut are well-known brands. We may or may not shop from their brands, but they always ring a bell in our ears. Do you know why? It's due to their excellent branding strategy. Branding for any business (including entertainment) is crucial. It helps a business to grow and serves as an essential asset. Hence, the question is, how does one build a brand? The answer is you need to invest in your Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from the beginning! IPR consists of different aspects, including but not limited to trademark, copyright, patent, trade secret, trade dress, domain name, etc. In this brief article, we are focusing on trademarks; however, in another article, we shall also touch upon the significance of other IPRs for your budding business.
Trademark is the first step to building a brand. It gives a unique identity to the brand. Logo, colour, design, etc., help people remember the brand. It allows customers to distinguish between similar entities in the market. A loyal customer will quickly identify products and services due to trademark. It, in turn, creates a large customer base due to word-of-mouth advertising. Trademark registration makes the consumers believe that the business is genuine. It further strengthens the foothold of the brand. Trademarks and any other intellectual property are invaluable assets of a business entity. This intangible asset only appreciates with time. The growth of your business directly grows the value of your trademark. Registering a trademark is a fool-proof investment in your business entity.
Do you know Band-aid, Xerox, Fevicol, Jacuzzi, Chapstick, Bisleri are some words that we often use as common nouns? However, believe it or not, they are proper nouns! These brands have made their trademark so strong that people have associated the products to the names brands. Small MSMEs and startups often neglect to invest in trademarks. They believe in cost-cutting and treat trademark registration as an unimportant business expense. However, this is untrue. Investing in brands in the initial stages of developing a startup or a new business can be very cost-effective. It is a long term investment with no risks and only benefits. First of all, invest some time in choosing the name of your business. Invest some time and money in getting your logo designed. You should be meticulous while selecting the brand name, logo and taglines. Never try to copy any existing brands. There should not be even phonetical or visual similarities that may cause confusion among the customers. It not only exposes you to a trademark infringement battle but also harms your professional identity. For example, in New Delhi, a person started his restaurant in the name of 'Zara'. Fashion brand Zara successfully sued the restaurant, and it had to change its name to Tapas Bar after costly litigation. Would not it have been a good idea to be cautious from the beginning? We need to remember that like personal identity, your business identity should be unique and NOT a copy of any other existing business. Our simple tip is when some name hits you, start with a google search to assure that a similar business name does not exist and then hire an attorney to do a trademark search for you. The attorney shall make a thorough search of the trademark registry and give you a detailed report.
The next step is to promote the name and logo along with your goods and services so that people start associating your brand with your product/services. For example, your brand and logo should be visible not only on screen but also on promotional material. If you are working with someone else even as a minority partner, you need to ensure through the credit clause of the contract that your brand is also getting enough exposure.
Finally and most importantly, you should also register your trademark under the Trademark Act. 1999. Registration offers the owner(s) exclusive right to use the trademark and exclude anyone from using the identical or deceptively similar mark. In absence of a registered trademark, the aggrieved party cannot launch an infringement suit but can only launch a lawsuit under common law tort of passing off, and proving the prior usage/goodwill/brand of the name(s) to a court of law, and then obtaining an injunction against the infringer. Trademarks in the course of business can also help an entity get financial assistance. It works as an asset for you and like any other asset you can license/sell/assign, your trademark in exchange for money! Once registered, the Act protects the registered trademark for ten years, after which you can review the same. This shows that trademarks are forever. It is once in a lifetime investment with the best returns.
To sum it up, trademark conceptualization and registration is the most critical step in building a brand. It provides a distinct identity, protects the brand, increases financial aids, is an invaluable asset, and lasts forever. Nothing can go wrong with registering a trademark. We at Attorney for Creators would love to guide you with your trademark related queries. You can comment below. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for legal consultancy and for building an IP portfolio for your business. Do not hesitate to share these articles among your other small business owner colleague so that they also get an insight.
https://www.crowdspring.com/blog/brand-identity/ (last accessed 12th September 2021)
https://blog.ipleaders.in/10-landmark-cases-trademark-infringement/ (last accessed 12th September 2021)
https://startuptalky.com/famous-brands-uncommon-facts/ (last accessed 12th September 2021)