By : Charlie Wittmack
A company’s brands are often among its most valuable assets; although unlike a company’s fleet, buildings, or employees, brands and intellectual property generally aren’t protected by your insurance policies. As a result, many organizations overlook the need to protect them. A simple legal review of your company’s brands and intellectual property can help you preserve and grow the value of these assets.
Your brands serve a variety of important purposes for your organization: they embody your reputation; they distinguish your goods or services from your competitors; they signify consistent quality of those goods or services to your customers; and they create valuable goodwill with your customers.
Most organizations spend years and decades building value in their brands and intellectual property. However, a failure to monitor and maintain these assets can allow other enterprises to destroy this value relatively easily.
Because of the value and fragility of these assets, it is important that business owners establish a thoughtful program covering all facets of brand protection. Generally, a brand protection program will include the following:
- A process to select, clear, register, and maintain strong and protectable trademarks. In too many circumstances we have been contacted by clients who have invested in a new brand or logo, with the accompanying eye-popping investment in marketing materials and collateral, only to be notified after launch that they are infringing on another business’s legal rights. In other instances, organizations with established brands have failed to protect them, and other organizations have been permitted to engage in competitive activities that destroyed the brand’s value.
- A program to ensure proper use of company trademarks by employees and third parties. Once a trademark is established, it’s important the company train employees on the proper use of the mark in order to maintain its registration and protection. Aspirin, Escalator, Trampoline, Laundromat, and the App Store are all products and services that were initially used exclusively by the inventor, but lost trademark protection due to a failure to properly maintain and protect the word.
- The implementation of policies and procedures to protect company brands in the social media context. Because of the informal nature of social media, and the relative lack of training of the individuals who perform this function for employers, social media has become an area where brands have quickly lost protection.
- A review program that will protect company trademarks against counterfeiting and gray market activities. Platforms like Etsy allow home-based manufacturers to quickly create and sell counterfeit goods. Popular brands and marks require a robust and frequent review process to catch these vendors. One representative client of Hartung Schroeder, typically finds counterfeit and infringing goods on Etsy on a weekly basis.
- Identifying and taking appropriate action against third parties that infringe or misuse a company’s trademarks and other intellectual property, including cyberpiracy and other online abuse. Like a statute of limitations, trademark infringement must be acted upon quickly. If a company fails to protect its legal rights through enforcement actions, the company can quickly lose protection.
Hartung Schroeder is ready to assist you and your business to identify and manage the acquisition, protection, licensing, and enforcement of trademarks and other brand assets.
ABOUT CHARLIE WITTMACK
Charlie Wittmack represents high-growth companies ranging in size from small start-ups to large multinational companies. His practice is focused primarily on helping companies pursue strategies that increase total revenue, increase net profit, and increase scalability. You can read more about him here.