Bentley Dispute – Is Intellectual Property due a Rebrand?

Intellectual Property (IP) has an image problem. This may be why its relevance to branding is often misunderstood. If you want to create a winning brand name or are embarking on a branding exercise focus on the intersection between marketing, branding, trademarks, and IP.

IP is intrinsic to business. IP must be taken on board by the branding and marketing industry and get a seat at the table so to speak.

One reason IP is sometimes disregarded is due to the perception that you need to be a big brand with significant resources to bother with IP. This could not be more wrong. A small business that can ill afford litigation needs to ensure its legal rights are on a strong footing so it can prevail if a big brand begins using the same name. If you are in the early stages of your business and a big player decides to use your name, you are completely vulnerable if you have not registered your trademark. On the other hand, if you have properly protected the brand, you can decide to sell it to the big brand and get paid to rebrand effectively plus something extra.

Later on, when you have more resources and become embroiled in litigation you will be able to argue your case in court with confidence if your rights are strong enough to prevail over the Goliaths of this world. You do not have to succumb just because they are bigger than you.

Bentley Litigation

Take Bentley Clothing as an example. The business was founded in 1962. In 1982, the trademark was registered in class 25 (the category covering clothing) at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

 

bentley image

IMAGE COPYRIGHT BENTLEY CLOTHING

 

Bentley Motors, like many car brands, decided to manufacture a line of clothing under its Bentley brand leading to a trademark dispute with Bentley Clothing. The BBC reports that the dispute began when Bentley Clothing approached the car giant in 1998 about the branding clash.

In the years between then and when the High Court litigation proceedings began in 2017, the parties negotiated but were unable to resolve the dispute. Bentley Motors even made various unsuccessful attempts to cancel the clothing firm’s Bentley trademark

bentley motors

 

 

 

Bentley Motors’ Name and Logo

In 2019 the High Court ruled that Bentley Motors had infringed Bentley Clothing’s trademark. It could not use the name Bentley on its UK clothing range. Therefore, Bentley Motors was ordered to destroy all clothes featuring the Bentley Motors logo.

Bentley Motors appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost.

Undoubtedly, Bentley Clothing like any small company involved in a dispute found the experience unpleasant and stressful. However, it will have drawn comfort during those years of uncertainty, from the fact that its rights were solid. Otherwise, I doubt they would have persevered for so long.

IP matters so much, and I’ve used this case to illustrate that the Davids can beat the Goliaths of this world provided they build their businesses on strong IP foundations.

Rebranding Intellectual Property?

IP does need a makeover though. A total rebrand so people stop seeing it as something boring and irrelevant to them. I would love to know if there are any branding geniuses out there who have ideas on how to rebrand IP. Perhaps I might discuss it with the powers that be in the IP world to see if I can persuade them to engage with a rebranding exercise.

I reckon one aspect of this rebranding is to ensure IP is better understood. As IP lawyers we have a responsibility to speak in plain English, to be less obscure, and to explain IP’s significance whenever the opportunity arises.

Another problem is that lawyers are just associated with taking legal steps like doing availability searches or registering trademarks or drafting agreements.

How about offering other services beyond advice and legal actions?

I doubt people appreciate how much knowledge trademark lawyers have of branding, that could be available to them in alternative ways. For example, we have introduced a coaching and mentoring service, Brand Tuned, and I am currently supporting a client with his brand strategy while he is using another law firm to help him with legal work.

Coaching and Mentoring on IP

Through the Brand Tuned coaching and mentoring service, we aim to support CEOS, creatives, entrepreneurs, and business owners at any stage of their business.

Typically, the service might be used to think through your brand strategy, decide what research to do or to commission based on your projects, so you avoid wasted costs. Research is so important, and yet so often results in no new insight being gleaned if the wrong advisers are used or the wrong type of research is undertaken. One area that is often not well understood, even by marketers, is how to segment the market, and understand customers’ wants and needs to choose the right buyer persona to target initially.

Choosing a name that is right for the business’ overall strategy requires expertise in trademarks, not just to search availability and register a trademark, but to choose the right kind of name. The brand name s the single most important decision a business makes, yet what constitutes a good name and the right name for the business is poorly understood. Coaching and mentoring is also useful to brief creatives effectively.

Legal Agreement with Creatives for Branding

Did you know that one of the most important legal agreements you make when branding your business is with your chosen designer or agency? It is key to securing ownership over the distinctive brand assets that are designed for you. Good communication of expectations leads to successful branding projects. Misunderstandings happen too often.

Building your brand on solid foundations involves taking account of IP risks and opportunities upfront so you avoid the need to undo ill-considered actions. It involves registering a trademark as soon as the name is chosen, which is just one example of how IP is often incorrectly dealt with.

If you are thinking of licensing or franchising or planning an exit, it is sensible to have an IP audit and/or mentoring and coaching on IP. Azrights services can be combined with Brand Tuned support to help with that.

Brand Tuned Podcast and Book

I set up a podcast in May 2020 – Brand Tuned, Smart Marketing, Better Branding to discuss what moves the needle in branding. Like most things in life, things take work to perfect. The thing is to keep improving, continuously. What do they say about why the Beatles became good? They practised more than the norm.

So, my podcast is by no means what I would like it to be yet. But I am persevering with it, trying to improve it all the time, and my idea moving forward during 2021 is that episodes each week will discuss a single topic drawn from my TUNED framework for how to create a brand:

T- Think IP First!  How intellectual property impacts brands.

U – Understand your market!  Researching to understand the market, what buyers want and need, developing a business plan and strategy, positioning and differentiating the offering.

N – Name it right!  Choosing brand names

E – Establish your brand strategy!  Creating the visual identity

D – Drive the brand strategy! Promoting the brand using a combination of long and short term tactics such as social media, SEO, podcast guesting, content marketing etc.

My third book is available on Amazon now, releasing in September 2021. It is called Brand Tuned – The New Rules of Branding, Strategy and Intellectual Property and discusses the above topics and more. It explains how IP fits in branding. The focus of the book is not on law though. It is on all the considerations you would need to take into account when creating a brand. Why not order your copy now?

In conclusion, if you are reading this and are interested in having support with your branding project, or want an IP audit, or if you have ideas for rebranding IP I’d love to hear from you. Use the Contact form

Shireen Smith , advises SMEs on how to turn ideas for new business concepts, products or services into protectable IP. Building a business on strong legal and IP foundations is how you increase the value of a business. For help to create, identify, protect, and defend your business assets.

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