How to protect your startup brand from unauthorized use?
Brand protection is inevitable for a startup’s longevity. It may require you to put the same or even more effort than starting up. And still, chances are that you will leave a few gaps that enable the third-party to infiltrate your brand and hence, you need to put a check on its unauthorized use.
What most people do is that they get the logo and name out in the public without thinking of protecting it. So, take the first step and get your startup a trademark registration.
Since the trademark is geographic, you can only apply for a place where you conduct the business from. It is the only way if you are looking to protect your business’ brand identity so that it stays unique to your business.
Registering a trademark provides you with the right to ensure legal protection that limits any third-party misuse.
Let’s look at some of the strategies for brand protection.
1) Prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement
There are times when it is impossible to exercise intellectual property right for protecting a business idea. Toss in a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to legally stop others from leveraging on that idea in any form.
It is natural for startups to create a unique differentiator in the market and therefore getting is signed by the developers and employees with whom it shares the idea ensures clarity.
Non-Disclosure Agreement binds two or more people in an agreement that mentions who share crucial business information with whom and what information cannot be shared with anyone outside of the organization.
Many entrepreneurs believe in getting the NDA sign from everyone including the investors though many think that it is often not required. Because investors are bound to listen to many ideas and to judge the suitability of ideas they need to compare and discuss those with others.
2) Securing Intellectual Property
There are many things that a startup can choose to trademark like its logo, designs relevant to the brand, patterns on the product or even the branding colors.
Big corporates like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc. spend billions on intellectual property to secure futuristic technology like voice interactions.
Check out the few below-mentioned ways to enable leveraging intellectual property rights for your business.
Trademark your logo by getting in touch with the business professional service provider. They will assist you throughout the registration process while ensuring that no other brand would try to leverage your registered mark.
It is not possible to trademark the whole arrangement of words but instead, you can register the tagline as your brand’s tagline. There are a few norms that one needs to follow while trying to register a tagline like keeping it creative and distinctive.
For instance, “Just Do It” by Nike is distinctive enough to communicate its philosophy of accepting challenges. On the contrary, an environmental group cannot trademark the “Think Green” tagline as it is too vague and distinctive enough.
Colour Mark Protection
Understand that the definition of trademark registration does not include the colors. But after 1995, it got possible for the businesses to trademark a single or even the combination of multiple colors. It includes trademarking of product color, services, and packaging help to determine the source and not used solely for decoration purposes.
For instance, Louboutin has red soles for high-heel shoes. While it does not give them the right to restrict others from using it but only on that particular part of the shoe.
3) Copyright Branding Elements
It is best to protect the brand through a copyright registration that enables the creator to exercise the power of stopping others from using it. Other individuals and businesses cannot create a derivative work nor can they reuse or reproduce it.
Though, the authorized owner can allow anyone to use such a copyright mark by way of licensing or assigning it in exchange for money or other gains.
On the other hand, there is no protection through copyright for any work which is a form of trade names, slogans, a single phrase or any parodies of copyright work.
Plenty of global brands choose certain places or characters within their brand work to copyright it. For example, the golden “M” (two French Fries) of McDonald’s Brands is copyrighted globally to get added protection.
4) A Claim of Prior Use with the Proof
It happens that two or more brands may apply for the same mark to be registered as a trademark. The disputes are bound to happen in such cases where similar trademarks may already in the use. Claiming a prior use in such instances will give you an edge over the others.
If your startup brand ever gets involved in a dispute with another brand having merely applied for the same or similar trademark, then claiming the prior use can give your brand an upper hand. There are many cases wherein a few brands have won by claiming prior use even against big brands.
There are ways to showcase the proof of prior use and claim that you were the first one to use it publically. It also demonstrates the exclusivity of using that mark before anyone in the market.
You can claim the prior use by presenting the following proofs:
- Bills and invoices for each year when you used the mark.
- Proofs in the form of leaflets, newspaper ads, flyers, or anything that serves as a proof of mass distribution.
- Digital media presence like websites and other publications that promote services/products with the brand name.
- Any form of non-printed materials of advertising like radio ads, TV/Internet ads, and social media videos, etc.
- The government registration certificate of the mark is also strong evidence.
It is recommended to keep the proof of use date and brand name used in the financial transactions supporting the usage. The implications of allowing the forged brand name to be used in the market can be very serious.
It can dilute your brand due to the substandard quality of the product being offered under your brand name. If your startup is looking to raise money from external sources then you better ensure that your brand name is not associated with sub-par stuff that can hamper your growth.
Branding is the key to ensure business visibility and sustainability and therefore it is best to stay vigilant for protecting your brand from possible infringement. Create a differentiator through a trademark and hire IP professionals to safeguard it and the same goes for creators who can copyright their creation.
The idea is not to allow brand infiltration by any means from the external sources.