Monkey and I go back a long way. All the way back to 2002 in fact, when I filed an application to register him both as a three-dimensional trade mark, and a two-dimensional logo. It was the beginning of a story that no one could have predicted.
I first heard about Monkey during my time at Clifford Chance where we worked for several high-profile brand owners. I was the trade mark attorney for the company which owned the pay-TV platform ONDigital Plc. The troubled company were to undergo a ten million pound rebranding to ITV Digital. Part of this rebranding was the creation of the comedy duo known as Al, played by Johnny Vegas, and a two foot high stuffed monkey, known simply as Monkey, who played the smart guy. We were sent a replica monkey in order to have photos taken for the trade mark applications. I was told that we could have the real Monkey, though he would have to be accompanied by two security guards at all times! We passed on that and arranged for photos of a replica. Here is Monkey looking dapper on the UK Intellectual Property Office website, now a 3D trade mark of Comic Relief:
Comprehensive protection of monkey trade mark
We filed applications to cover seventeen classes, a very wide range of goods and services, and were successfully registered following a Hearing. Monkey became very popular in the office, especially as he made a great cup of tea. Unfortunately, ITV Digital did not fare so well, and they later went bankrupt.
Monkey trade mark saves the day
When the company went into administration, the most valuable remaining asset was Monkey himself. In the end, it turned out that a stuffed monkey had been more popular than the network. There was an ownership dispute with the company who designed Monkey, which was resolved by their ultimately giving Monkey to the Comic Relief charity. Since then he has worked on PG Tips adverts, still appearing alongside Al. Monkey is one of a small number of characters who have successfully transitioned to advertising a completely different product.
How does this apply to your business?
So what’s the moral of Monkey’s story? When all else failed, Monkey was solidly and comprehensively protected as a registered trade mark. This fact meant that he had a recognisable value as an asset of the business, which the administrators could realise. Just like tangible property, trade marks are assets which can be sold, licensed, franchised and mortgaged, depending on the strategy for your business. However, it is not enough that your business simply owns unregistered rights. As Monkey will tell you, trade marks need to be registered in order to hold their value. It is vital to identify the intellectual property in your business, and seek to protect it by registration. Get help from us here:
Ward Trade Marks Limited is a Bury St Edmunds based specialist trade mark attorney firm.