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Protecting your brand

Whether you are an artisan bakery or a bespoke software solutions provider, your brand is one of your most valuable assets.  To your clients and potential clients, your brand represents your reputation and the goodwill that you have worked hard over the years to build.

Knowing how to prevent your brand from being damaged or taken advantage of through misuse by competitors or counterfeiters will help maintain its value as an asset.  Legal rights such as trademarks, copyright and/or registered or unregistered design right exist to help businesses and individuals to protect themselves and their hard earned brand. Each different right affords a different level of protection to a different aspect of your brand. A brief overview of these rights are:

Trademarks are often the preferred right to protect branding because they provide a monopoly right, it’s easy to prove (once registered) and allows the owner to prevent a third party from using any name or branding that might be deemed “confusingly similar” to your registered mark.  You can trademark logos, names, taglines, images, and even the more abstract element of your brand, such as colours and sounds.

Design rights give you the exclusive rights to use a design for up to 25 years in the UK if registered, or 10 years if unregistered.  As with trademarks, you can stop others from making, offering, putting on the market, importing, or exporting a product to which your design is applied.

Copyright is another IP right. It does not require registration in the UK.  It exists automatically and can be enforced as long as you have proof of having first produced the copyrighted material. Copyright can cover music, writing, images and artistic works, such as photographs and paintings.

The recent National Lottery Commission appeal case illustrates the potential for using your copyright to stop others from diluting your brand.  The National Lottery Commission previously registered the recognisable logo - the smiling hand with its fingers crossed – as a trademark.  A Naples-based company, Mediatek Italia, and a Naples-resident, Mr Giuseppe de Gregorio, opposed the registration on the basis that they owned the copyright of the image.  The evidence of ownership and validity of the copyright was a copy of an agreement dated 1986 in which the alleged author of the hand mascot design assigned his copyright in the design to one of the Applicants. The trademark was cancelled.

When things go wrong

When someone infringes your brand, it does not necessarily mean that the matter will end up in court and you have to incur large legal costs.  Sometimes infringers are simply not aware that they are infringing your brand and often they will respond to a formal request to cease and desist from the usage.  The legal right of ownership via trademark and/or registered design is simply an insurance for when a legal dispute does arise.
Prevention is always better than cure.

If you would like any further advice please call Annie on 0113 2206282.

About the Author

Annie Hui-Gillen

Associate

Annie is an Associate in the Commercial litigation department specialising in all types of commercial…

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