“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand. In that case, intellectual property protection is the silent enforcer for your brand.
Branding is valuable to any business. Big or small. New or old. Product or service. It’s also a really creative part of a business. Names, logos, colours, fonts, pretty websites and social media content – everyone loves the front of house stuff. But investment in intellectual property (IP) protection for these brand assets often takes a backseat, I’m talking the nosebleed section.
I’m hearing the collective groans. It’s all too hard. It’s on the to-do list. It’s not worth the investment. Think of the time, money and effort you’ve invested to create and build your brand assets. Then someone starts riding on your creative coat tails or you end up stepping on someone else’s legal toes. Remember those cheap IP seats I mentioned earlier? They’ll start looking like pricey front row seats to Beyonce; or a sh*tshow.
When investing in trade mark protection for your brand, the buck doesn’t stop with just your name or logo. Effective and valuable brands are often a combination of different trade marks. Here’s a guide to help you identify different trade marks and brand assets within your business.
But first, let’s get back to some trade mark basics. Trade mark registration provides a party with exclusive rights to a mark. But not anything and everything can qualify for trade mark protection. One of the main requirements for valid trade mark protection is that a mark needs to be distinctive. If a mark is descriptive of your products or services, commonly used by others in your industry, or in general; it may not be distinctive enough to function or be registered as a trade mark. Branding is a creative process so flex those creative chops when creating your brand assets.
You’ll find some more creative brand inspiration in this blog post.
Every business wants to go where everybody knows their brand name. A brand name is the verbal identity for your business. Your brand name, business or company name, might be one and the same. For example, Apple® is the brand name and the company name is Apple, Inc.
But your brand name doesn’t have to be the same as your business or company name. Two great examples are Proctor & Gamble and Unilever. You might not be familiar with these two company names, but you’ll definitely know their brands. Between them, they own some of the world’s best-known brands. P&G own Pantene®, Gillette®, Oral-B®, while Unilever own Dove®, Rexona®, Ben & Jerry’s® – to name just a tiny few in their massive brand portfolios.
Protect your core or house brand names to prevent brand identity theft. Because copycat brand names are like fake IDs, they’re intended to distract and dupe your customers into thinking they’re the real deal.
Sub-brands are often subsidiary or individual product or service brand names. Take Coke® for example:
There’s the original Coca-Cola®, Diet Coke®, Coca-Cola Zero®, Coca-Cola Vanilla®; the list goes on.
(Btw has anyone tried the new Coca-Cola® Peach No Sugar?). The point is, these are brand extensions of the core Coke® brand. Then there’s Fanta® and Sprite® that are also sub-brands of The Coca-Cola Company and they hold their own on the supermarket shelves.
If your business offers products and services with unique or clever names of their own, it’s worth considering trade mark protection for each of these brand assets.
A logo is a visual identity for your brand and business. This can be a symbol alone, your brand name presented in a stylised way, or a mix of words and symbols. Everyone knows the iconic Nike® “Swoosh”, it’s pretty much stamped everywhere and on everything. But this logo has got some serious versatility. It’s used alone, and together with the Nike® brand name. The combination of the Swoosh element and Nike® brand name, is a logo in its own right.
Logos can level up to iconic brand status through consistent use and ironclad trade mark protection strategies. So consider all the different visual identities used to represent your brand.
Taglines and slogans can serve as another form of a verbal identity for your brand and business. They can be a brand’s mantra or capture a brand’s mission or value. Whatever purpose they serve for your brand, taglines and slogans can be an incredibly valuable brand asset for your business. For example, those three iconic little words, Just Do It®, managed to catapult Nike’s sales worldwide from the millions to the billions from 1988 to 1998. Taglines and slogans are big brand business. Just sayin’.
Some other iconic taglines and slogans, that are also registered trade marks include:
Some brands have developed a well-known visual identity through the distinctive shape or features of their actual products. Examples:
Consistent colour use can elevate a particular shade to iconic brand status. Most gents, thanks to every woman they know, will recognise a Tiffany & Co® box. The colour is a registered trade mark and a private custom colour (PMS 1837) produced by Pantone for the company. Also, word to the wise if you’re going to use a robin egg blue colour, don’t call it Tiffany Blue®. Other iconic brand colours include:
Got a signature smell? If it’s a really unique scent that’s associated with your product, you may be able to register and protect the scent it as a trade mark. For example, a golf tee that smells of eucalyptus. For any nostalgic Play-Doh® sniffers out there, Hasbro® have the Play-Doh® scent protected as trade mark.
The take home: branding and IP, especially trade marks, go together like creative peas and carrots. IP should be an integral part of any good creative branding process and strategy. Create and identify those brand assets, just don’t forget to protect your ass-ets.
Get in touch with us if you need a partner to help you pan for and protect any precious branding gems within your business.