BRANDING AND PROTECTION
Protecting your business
Every business markets and sells a branded product or service. Their brand name distinguishes their products or services from their competition. Good products and services lead to happy customers. This leads to repeat orders from their customers. Nothing new here. However a few questions arise:
Great brands need proper protection
The first step in setting up a business or a new line of products is setting up a brand name for the product you intend to sell, or the service you intend to provide. A name that is descriptive of the product or service may sound appealing, but will not be able to be registered or protected against imitation. This will result in wasted time, effort and expense in marketing and building your new brand identity and reputation. To brand your new margarine as ‘FRESH Margarine’ or your stationery business as ‘MY STATIONER’ would be fruitless.
Rather start with an inventive word that has no known meaning, such as KODAK or OMO. This would have a greater prospect of being available for registration, as not being already registered, or anything confusingly similar to it, for the relevant goods.
Words out of context to the products are possible, but will not provide as strong protection against imitation. Examples here would be ‘LION’ for beer or matches, ‘CAMEL’ for cigarettes, or ‘LIFE BUOY’ for soap etc.
The next category would be a suggestive name such as MUSTANG for motor cars or EGO for a deodorant. Naturally these would be likely to provide weaker protection, but would appeal to the marketing department as having an in-built and immediate consumer appeal.
Lastly, as mentioned above, descriptive words or words laudatory of the product are not capable of registration and hence provide no protection at all.
If you may ever want to, or just to be able to, expand your current range of products to other categories, or to market them to neighbouring countries, or overseas, you will need to assess and review your legal right to do so, in terms of e.g. appropriate trade mark registrations for each category of products, in each country.
Something to think about – have you attached a value to the ‘goodwill’ acquired by your business in your balance sheet? Should you ever want to sell the business, or to franchise it, or list it on the JSE, you will need to re-asses the value you have attributed to your intellectual property, and to this end show not only how well your brands are known and how highly they are regarded, but also how well you have protected your brands and other intellectual property, as part of due diligence.