Brand + Business x Christine Moody*
In the excitement of starting a business—and then surviving the first few years—trademarking the brand’s identity (the logo/symbol) is often forgotten or seen as an unnecessary expense. But the important process of trademarking—what protects your valuable asset—needs to be included in your start-up or expansion plans. Where I have seen it being a problem is when the lack of protection is revealed during the due diligence process of the sale of the business. When the organisation goes to register it, it is may not be able to secure the trademark. This occurs for various reasons but the main one is that the front-end research stage was not included in the process of deciding on the trading name.
I have seen this far too often and it is part of our standard procedures to conduct initial research into the name and symbol, prior to engaging an IP lawyer. The initial checks are no guarantee for the acceptance of the trademark but what it does give us is a good indication of names more likely to be successful in the process. It is not enough just to register the domain name and the business name. Registering a trademark is different.
…you need brand specialists to help your organisation protect and manage one of your most valuable assets—your brand identity.
As well as securing the services of an accountant and lawyer, you also need brand specialists to help your organisation protect and manage one of your most valuable assets. And once it is registered, it needs regular audits to ensure that the brand remains ‘on brand’ and what has been trademarked is what is still in use by staff and suppliers. You would be amazed at the number of audits I have done where the logo has been recreated and bears only slight resemblance to the trademark. This logo is then used across the organisation without anyone seeing the difference. This leaves your trademark exposed as part of protecting your trademark is using it—the organisation needs to be using the logo that was trademarked.
The best way to ensure everyone in the organisation understands the importance of using the correct trademark, is to regularly conduct formal audits. Another way is to educate staff and suppliers on the brand identity and ensure they have access to the current guidelines and digital files. Regular presentations of exemplars of the brand identity usage along with inconsistencies in use, also helps to educate and encourage staff and suppliers to work with the correct—and valuable—trademarked brand identity.
Every organisation should be practising safe branding. Is yours?
*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading brand strategists and the founder brand management consultancy, Brand Audits. With more than 30 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international brands, including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels, and Wrigleys USA, to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. Her particular interest is personal brand audits to assist executives realise their full potential.
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