• Trademark – The Swift Approach

    To Trademark or not to Trademark….that is the question. It is an important one when it comes to creating a brand or business. In the news earlier this year, we saw Taylor Swift looking to trademark some song lyrics, leading to much media mocking and indignation. But when business gurus started analyzing it, it actually made sense. She gets to merchandise products (for example t-shirts) with her lyrics and thwarts other businesses from copying her brand and making money from her endeavours.

    This foresight is in direct contrast to our own recent experience – we created our brand, including registering the company name, created a website, logos etc. We advertised in local business press, met with many of the local professional firms in and around Vancouver. We were members of local business associations. We were even guest speakers at a number of fairly prestigious events. We invested a huge amount of time, energy, not to mention money on building our reputation and brand. What we didn’t invest in was protecting our investment – we didn’t think to trademark the brand.

    Five years down the line we received a cease & desist notice from a similarly named company. They had formally commenced trademarking the name a couple of weeks earlier. Their business had been founded a year prior to ours, but had never set up a web site or done much to promote the existence of their business (as far as we could ascertain). Without the protection of a trademark we faced a stark choice – fight the “cease & desist” request or give up our brand. Because they had founded earlier than us, it would potentially be a long, protracted battle. The legal bills (including potential appeals) would have run to tens of thousands of dollars. We knew that a fight over names would only make the lawyers richer, so we bowed out gracefully and gave up our brand.

    An example of an infamous Trademark battle was between Apple Corp (owned by The Beatles) and Apple Inc (of iPhone fame). These businesses fought long, hard, and costly lawsuits with each other over a period of nearly 30 years and only came to a resolution in 2007.

    My question is do you really need a trademark for your business? A year ago I might have hesitated about my response…with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, the answer now is a resounding YES.

    If you have created a brand, you need to be fiercely and proactively protective of it as you nurture and build it. That means that as well as concentrating on the marketing and operational requirements, you need to ensure you legally cover your business. Register your trademark in order to protect your brand and your investment.

    Ralph is a detail-oriented leader who gets things done. As a partner at Incrementa Consulting, he ensures there are no gaps in which execution can fail. You can connect with Ralph on Twitter or read more of his thoughts on the Incrementa website.

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