Most people assume intellectual property is primarily a distress purchase. This is one of the many misconceptions about IP that I’ve noticed since starting my business in 2004.
It frustrates me that people turn to me when they’re copied, assuming this is the kind of work I’m engaged in doing, when they’ve never consulted me before about their IP. If you design IP protection into the business through your agreements, choice of brand name and other identifiers you strengthen your position against the most common and damaging forms of copying in business.
In the 21st century, IP is of central relevance due to shifts in society brought about by digitisation, globalisation, and the internet. Lack of appreciation about what ‘brand’ and ‘IP’ mean and entail is why better education on brand creation is essential.
When I first started in business, I’d just worked for large employers like Reuters, Eversheds, and Coopers & Lybrand. I set up on my own for the flexibility to work around my daughters instead of spending long hours in the workplace away from home.
In those days I was as clueless about business as the start-ups I come across today. So much so that in my first year I actually lost money because I followed the advice of the Law Society’s Handbook, ‘Setting up and Managing a Legal Practice’ and offered general practice services instead of just focusing on my expertise of intellectual property and commercial law.
In fairness, my skills were suited to the needs of large multi-national organisations, and I didn’t know what IP services small businesses needed that I could offer, let alone how to differentiate my offerings from those of other lawyers.
So, I made the classic mistake mentioned in my blog Thirteen Reasons Why Businesses Fail, of taking whatever work came my way and plenty of conveyancing and probate work came in! I suddenly had to come up to speed with areas of practice I hadn’t touched since my training days. I spent hours poring over inane stuff like how to complete stamp duty forms. I also invested money on systems I soon abandoned.
Although I engaged a designer for my “branding”, all I essentially got from the expensive exercise was a logo, and a website. There was no real marketing or business guidance.
I’ve since realised that branding needs to be a multi-disciplinary exercise involving marketing as well as graphic design skills, although graphic design is the last discipline to engage with. Yet most people assume they need a graphic designer whenever the word ‘brand’ comes up, possibly because they associate ‘brand’ with logos and visual identity, when it’s so much more than that.
Even if entrepreneurs did seek out a marketer and a graphic designer separately, IP strategy would be missing because neither of these professionals are trained in IP. They treat IP as if it’s just about due diligence searches on names and trademark registration. So IP strategy is hardly ever taken into account when new brands are created. This is why lawyers should learn more about brand creation services.
Nowadays with logos being cheaply available on platforms like Upwork, some business owners won’t even consult anyone who can explain what a brand is to them. They choose a name themselves and if they turn to an intellectual property lawyer it will be for trademark support. Lawyers rarely realise they’re the only professionals being consulted, and as their perspective is just on IP, they miss the opportunity to explain what ‘brand’ means and involves and fail to offer the greater brand creation support businesses need, but don’t know how to ask for.
For example, the importance of focusing on a niche, and what that means in practice is something I was unaware of in my early days in business, and it’s often lost on the early-stage businesses I come across. The fear is that niching will be limiting.
Even when I changed my focus to just offer intellectual property and commercial law, I made the same mistake many start-ups tend to make of offering the full range of services, such as patents, designs, trademarks, software contracts etc, instead of focusing on one.
I’ve learnt a lot from my own mistakes during these past 17 years of being in business. Niching doesn’t mean you can’t later expand outside your initial chosen area, nor need it mean you must turn away work outside your niche. Going narrow is simply a way to manage your limited resources so you stand a chance of getting traction. Think of Amazon, how it started in the bookselling niche even though the company intended to ultimately be the ‘everything store’.
To fill the gap in the market that exists for a joined-up brand creation service, Azrights has recently introduced a brand creation service. The Azrights brand creation service is built around the standalone Brand Tuned Accreditation course I’ve developed because there is a large educational component involved when creating a brand. So, although the service includes workshops, naming support, trademark due diligence and registration, clients also need to follow the Brand Tuned course to develop the necessary clarity so we can help them to create their brand plan. The brand plan is their roadmap as well as a way to easily brief designers for any visual identity work.
To be able to offer a brand creation service, I’ve developed multiple skills thanks to the years I’ve spent focusing on ‘brand’ to better understand what small businesses need to know about it. As well as supporting clients with different aspects of their brand, I’ve read widely, written the Brand Tuned book, hosted the Brand Tuned podcast and undergone studies to formally qualify in marketing, and brand management.
If you don’t need support with trademarks, or just want to be better informed on ‘brand’ and ‘IP’ then consider just doing the Brand Tuned Accreditation course. It’s suitable for brand creators, whether founders, graphic designers, marketers, or IP or corporate lawyers.
Professionals who provide a service when businesses are starting up and creating new brands would benefit from the course, so they develop the multiple skills they need to deliver a comprehensive service to their clients. Lawyers don’t need to want to offer a brand creation service to benefit from the learnings in the course. It would help them to do their legal work more effectively.
It’s not generally appreciated that IP strategy needs to inform brand strategy before a name or other identifier is chosen. Professionals offering brand creation services assume they just need IP input for due diligence on a name or to register a trademark. As such they don’t offer a joined-up solution to businesses looking to design their business for success. I’m hoping to change that.
So far, we’ve had marketers, and lawyers sign up to do the course. I’m hoping designers and founders will also enrol before the course starts in September.
There is an early bird offer that includes 3 consultation sessions with me. These sessions alone are worth in excess of £1000. To take advantage of the offer you need to sign up in May to get individual attention to adapt the learnings from the course to your business and career needs.
You’ll see from the brochure that the syllabus is multi-disciplinary, covering IP, marketing, business, brand and what to consider to create a distinctive visual identity.
To increase your success book yourself onto the Brand Tuned Accreditation program now.