Unregistered trade marks – why entrepreneurs need to avoid this mistake
The one major mistake that we see occurring, again and again, is entrepreneurs building their businesses around unregistered trade marks, leaving the door is wide open for competitors to either imitate them or worse, jump in and register the trade mark themselves.
By not taking the cost-effective step of getting your trade marks registered, your name, domain and logos are hugely vulnerable to being copied by a competitor. These items are key business assets and you need to safeguard them or your competitors will copy you and your hard-won customers will be lured away. This can happen very quickly if the competitor does a good job with their website SEO and ranks higher than you on Google.
Unfortunately, this practice is happening all the time. The internet is a powerful tool – you can spread your business message easily to your potential customers but on the flip side, more competitors will see you too. If you have built a business that is showing good growth and success, then before long it’s inevitable that someone else will want a piece of your action.
Two good examples are the language-translation area (rapidly growing as businesses seek to extend their reach to non-English speakers) and the social media / digital marketing area. We recently saw a flagrant copycat example where a highly ranked social media marketing website discovered a competitor’s website offering identical services on an identical domain name but using .co.uk rather than .com. The competitor also had a near identically named twitter account actively tweeting to generate business leads.
The ‘original’ site generates high traffic and excellent business leads but without any registered trade marks the company now faces the difficult, time-consuming and expensive problem of getting the competitor to stop using the copied name, and mend the damage caused by customer diversion. At this point, they can only pray that the competitor has not also registered or applied to register the trade mark themselves which would really compound the problem.
There is a general misconception that you are adequately protected merely from your Companies House registration and the ownership of your domain name. This is simply not correct because it means you have an unregistered trade mark. This is why a properly registered trade mark is so important. It gives you an exclusive statutory right to use your name or logo (depending on exactly what you registered) and the legislation enables you to enforce it and make others cease unauthorised use. More importantly, your ownership of the trade mark stops a competitor from registering it and using that registration as a very effective weapon against you.
When considering whether it’s worth using a trade mark attorney, just think – if a competitor did copy your name and registered the trade mark how damaging would that be for you? How much money and effort have you invested in growing your business and building loyal customers through your brand name, only to find yourself sharing this with a competitor? How would you feel if, ultimately, you had to rebrand yourself to avoid being on the wrong side of a trade mark infringement battle all because of your unregistered trade mark? As the business owner only you can answer that. but if your goal is to avoid such problems and have the peace of mind knowing that your trade marks are protected, then find yourself an experienced trade mark attorney and get your trade marks registered.
Get the job done properly
Why should you use a trade mark attorney? Using an attorney gives you complete peace of mind, knowing that the job is done properly. An attorney will spend time with you to understand your business and will help you to fully identify the key registrable trade mark components of your brand something that is often not obvious. The attorney will use your expertise to ensure that your registration covers the correct classes and that the specification is correctly drafted to optimise your protection. As you would expect, everything will be taken care of for you, from the application itself, through all the obstacles along the way, to the final issue of the registration certificate. All of this leaves you free to get on with what to do best – running your business.
For help with your trade mark protection strategy:
Ward Trade Marks Limited is a Bury St Edmunds based specialist trade mark attorney firm.BACK TO BLOG