Tag Archives: brand protection

Naming Mistakes

Top 3 Most Common Naming Mistakes

Naming MistakesAlthough Interbrand’s ‘10 most common naming mistakes’ article is featured by Google as a top resource, it is more about getting the reader to think that naming is too difficult to do, so they’ll engage a specialist branding agency to help them to choose a name, than guidance for people looking to make a better choice of name themselves. Here is a list of the 10 Mistakes the Interbrand article mentions

 

  1. Treating Naming as an afterthought
  2. Forgetting that Naming is as strategic as it is creative
  3. Underestimating the importance of a good creative brief
  4. Confusing the need for information with the need for differentiation
  5. Overlooking complex trademark issues
  6. Ignoring global implications
  7. Thinking everything needs a name
  8. Making it emotional
  9. Underestimating the story you need to tell at launch
  10. Ending the verbal identity process at a name

Interbrand is a respected marketing consultancy, specializing in brands and branding management, and operates out of 24 offices in 17 countries. Although it won’t be obvious just from reading their list what the article has to say about these mistakes, the references to brand strategy and story, are not likely to be helpful to a small business owner aiming to choose a name, without the help of an agency.

Many Agencies Make These Mistakes

Interestingly, some of the mistakes the article highlights around trademarks and checking the meaning of the name in other languages are mistakes many branding agencies make when choosing a name for their clients. They invariably leave the legal dimension till the end of the project which is a clear sign that they don’t understand the entwined nature of names and legal availability.

Otherwise, they would do trademark checks on names before handing over to their clients. But they don’t do the most basic trademark checks. I can understand that they’d leave more extensive searching for the client to arrange themselves. However, most agencies hand over a name they’ve only checked out on Google, domain and company registers. It happens all too often that as soon we run checks on the trademark registers the names put forward by the agency for their clients are immediately knocked out. So instead of getting 5 or 6 names, they end up with just one name that merits a full search.

Naming Webinar

Interbrand is a worldwide agency. It was founded by John Murphy, who pioneered the art of brand valuation, that is, measuring the accounting value of a company’s brands as assets. He stimulated the development of branding as an aspect of business, and the agency has traditionally combined branding with intellectual property because they clearly understood the connection between the two. This understanding is sadly lacking in the small business sector in most parts of the world today.

It’s to address the gap that exists between brand creation and brand protection that I’ve introduced a new product, Brand Tuned, to support the small business end of the market to access IP expertise during the branding process.

For most business owners that don’t want to hand over a naming brief to an agency, and want instead to tackle the naming project themselves, it may be useful to attend my upcoming Name it Right! webinar.

Three Most Common Naming Mistakes

The 3 most common mistakes people make when it comes to choosing names which are noteworthy to mention here are:

Firstly, not giving yourself enough time to choose a name. The Interbrand article refers to this as treating naming as an afterthought. However, the problem isn’t so much that people treat naming as an afterthought as that they often need a name in a hurry because until they have a name, they can’t get on and implement their plans and set up that new business, or embark on that project. So, my advice is to either give yourself more time and focus on other aspects of your projects that don’t rely on you having the name sorted. If it’s possible in light of your business model, go with a temporary descriptive name while you test your concept. Then if it succeeds, rebrand. That might give you a year or more in which to come up with a good name to suit your business.

The second major mistake people make which the Interbrand article doesn’t highlight at all, is that they fall in love with a name and persist with it, despite the name not being available because someone else has already trademarked it. I’ve come across business owners who persisted with a name despite being made aware that someone else had already registered the same name as a trademark. In such cases I suggest the business owner sets aside a sizeable budget for future litigation, or for trying to buy the brand from the current owners, or for rebranding if all else fails.

And last but by no means least, the third most common mistake is to choose a name that’s too descriptive to function as a trademark. Descriptive names describe the goods or services too blatantly to be capable of being trademarked.  Clubcard is an example of a name that was developed for Tesco’s loyalty card program by a big agency which they have not been able to trademark.

Descriptive names include British Telecom, Business Networking International, World Wide Fund, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank etc. These businesses with descriptive names had to rebrand to find a name that was ownable. In such cases, businesses either have to choose a totally new name, or, sometimes they might be able to use initials. BNI, BT, and HSBC are examples of this. However, initials are not a good choice of name, except perhaps for the large well known household name brands like the ones in this example. Also, problems arise when the initials you want to use are owned by another brand. This happened when both the World Wide Fund and the World Wrestling Federation wanted to rebrand to WWF. It resulted in decades of disputes between the two entities until eventually, the World Wrestling Federation rebranded to WWE.

Descriptive names cause huge problems when it comes to naming and is one strong reason agencies should involve a trademark lawyer on their team if they’re picking new names.

The reason problems arise around such names is that most people believe that the more a name says on the tin what it is that their product or service does, the better. So they try to choose descriptive names.

However, if you choose utterly banal non-distinct names that are not ownable you miss the single biggest opportunity that is available to a brand to stand out.

Descriptive names are weak because they are not ownable. That means they are generic terms that everyone else who offers similar products and services need to use.

Such names don’t challenge, excite, or mentally stimulate us. They require little imagination. And they reveal nothing about the personality of your brand (other than exposing your lack of creativity). When you draw from a limited pool of descriptive words, you sound like everyone else, making your name blend in with competitors’ names.

Examples Hotels.com and Booking.com

Hotels.com spent a fortune trying in vain to register hotels.com as a word trademark. Recently, the US Supreme court has muddied the waters by allowing Booking.com to trademark its name. The court overruled the US Patent and Trademark Office’s finding that the .com name was too generic to merit protection.

The general rule in trademark law is that “generic” words that refer to an entire category of goods or services, like “car” or “computer,” cannot be protected under the law because that would give an unfair advantage to the trademark holder.

So, even though Booking.com has secured trademark protection, it is still much more difficult to enforce your trademark rights when you have a name that is borderline descriptive. They may not be able to trademark the name in other jurisdictions, so, your brand protection costs are going to be a lot higher than if your name was totally distinctive like, for example, Google.

If you’re choosing a name then sign up to my webinar where I’ll be explaining how to go about picking a name for your brand.

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Trade Marks

Why Trademark? Essential Thinking Inspired by The Road Less Stupid

Trade MarksIn the book, “The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board” Keith J. Cunningham describes how smart people do dumb things. Business is an intellectual sport, yet many entrepreneurs and business owners cause themselves problems due to their “excessive optimism and emotional belief in magic pills, secret formulas, and financial tooth fairies. (All balloons look good when they are filled with hot air.)” says Cunningham.

The key to getting rich (and staying that way) is to avoid doing stupid things”.

I notice people’s tendency to freely spend on magic pills, secret formulas, and financial tooth fairies as Cunningham describes them while postponing or overlooking obvious steps to protect their business. People want to buy things that promise them a way to make money, but something like ownership of intangible assets that will secure the foundations of their business is neglected. It’s boring intellectual property which they don’t even want to take the time to understand, let alone secure and protect.

Trade mark registration and brand protection are basic first steps to take, there is no sense in postponing or putting this off, and I’d suggest that anyone looking to think better should revisit this subject with an open mind

But do note Maynard Keys’ observation that “Most people, when confronted with a choice of changing their thoughts or proving there is no need to change, get busy on the proof.”

 

Trademark Registration and Brand Protection

I have just spent a few thousand pounds extending my Brand Tuned UK trademark registration to the EU and USA.

You may wonder why I would bother to do this. The name is nothing particularly special, the brand name is not generating any money for the Azrights business as yet, and we’re on the cusp of a serious world recession, so nobody wants to be throwing money around.

However, it’s a name I’ve checked is available to me to use and I want to secure my rights in it. It might be worth explaining my thinking in case it helps you to make decisions for your business.

I’ve seen how much inconvenience, hassle and expense people go through when they don’t take this basic step of protecting the brand name they’re using in key markets for their plans.

As a general rule, it costs ten times as much to deal with the complications that can arise when you don’t protect your name than the cost of registering the name in the first place

Names and trademark registration are very similar to the ownership of physical property and should be thought of in the same way.

If you simply squat on land on which you are developing properties and don’t secure ownership of the legal title, your tenure would be insecure. You could have the rights taken away from you or otherwise lose them. Someone else or events outside your control might shatter your peace and enjoyment of your property.  Do you want to risk that with your brand?

Who wants to pay stamp duty and solicitors’ fees that are part and parcel of transferring the title to land? Given the choice, I reckon many people would postpone this cost and avoid the expense of acquisition. However, they go through the buying process with physical property largely because they understand that it’s a necessary aspect of owning land, of building on the land, and developing their life or business around ownership of that land.

While the same applies to names that we use in business, this is less well appreciated.

The first step is to secure rights in a name by registering a trade mark in your home market. If you simply use a name without registering it, then you set yourself up for costly litigation if someone else also starts using the name or registers the same or a similar name first, making it difficult for you to co-exist.

While people commonly register their own trade marks, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you take a lot of time to understand how to do it properly. In the same way, I wouldn’t recommend registering your land yourself even though it’s as seemingly straightforward to do so now that we have the land registry system in place for physical property.

Cost of Ownership

If you use an experienced lawyer to do the work for you, the total cost might be £1,000-£2,000 including official fees (that is, the equivalent of stamp duty) in the UK. You could save on legal fees and just pay the official fees (stamp duty). However, based on the number of poorly registered trademarks I’ve seen, it’s not worth the saving to do your own registration. Ultimately, you want a piece of paper you can rely on when it comes to enforcing your rights in your name, not just a piece of paper.

The trademark registries in all the countries worldwide are online and make it seemingly easy to register your rights yourself, but if you want to be properly protected get the best lawyer you can afford to do the drafting and scoping of your trademark for you. Just accept it as the price of owning your brand name.

That first registration gives you 6 months’ protection worldwide meaning you get priority protection in most countries provided you go on to extend your registration to your chosen markets worldwide within this 6-month window.

I had registered Brand Tuned in the UK, and the 6 months’ time window expired on 14 June to extend that protection to other countries of my choice worldwide.

Why Extend Internationally?

For Azrights, a trademark I registered in 2006, I hadn’t bothered and have still not bothered to extend the protection beyond the UK. The fact that I’m bothering with Brand Tuned is indicative of why there is no universal strategy for trademarks. Much depends on your plans for the business.

Some businesses might not need to extend beyond their home market, while others will need to extend their trademarks to some countries but not others. No business, not even the big household name brands, will be able to afford to register in every single country worldwide. It’s a matter of risk mitigation and knowing what could go wrong in different countries.

At the end of this article I highlight why China is a market that some businesses may need to concern themselves about.

I haven’t bothered to extend Azrights beyond the UK, even though there are theoretical risks I face, primarily because Azrights, though it protects brands internationally, does so as a UK based business. It might attract customers located abroad but the work is always conducted in the UK and then extended internationally using the system provided for international registration of IP.

How Lack of Protection Can Hurt a Business

An example of why it’s important to think strategically when protecting a brand is provided by US online dating website plentyoffish.com launched in 2001. UK competitor “Plenty More Fish” set up in 2006 and in 2007 filed to register a fish logo and the words PLENTY MORE FISH as a UK trade mark. The US site opposed the application but lost because it did not have enough UK subscribers to be able to claim earlier rights in the UK.  It should have registered an EU trade mark as that would have blocked other businesses registering similar names in any country within the EU.

Their failure to do so, enabled another business in the same space to use a similar name and ride off the back of their marketing spend and success. This would never be allowed to happen within a country’s borders because it’s recognised that there would be a negative impact on the revenues of the existing business, not to speak of potential loss of reputation if the newcomer provides a shoddy service which customer confusion will inevitably lead to attribution to the bigger brand.

The Azrights UK trade mark currently protects the business in the EU but perhaps we may think again about whether to secure an EU trade mark given that the UK will be leaving the EU at the end of this year.

Azrights is not an online business. It’s primarily local, based in the UK, so although it would be highly annoying and inconvenient if a new business were to set up in other parts of the world using this name, it’s not a significant enough risk to justify filing internationally.

Why I Registered Brand Tuned Internationally

For Brand Tuned, on the other hand, I have a podcast by that name, and intend to create online products under the name, among other things. If someone else stole the name and registered or began using it in the USA or EU first, they could require me to rebrand in those countries. This seemed a risk not worth taking.

It’s necessary to have a name you can safely build your business around. Not protecting the name in these two markets could be a massive inconvenience for us, and it would be costly to make changes. That’s why I have registered in those markets. I didn’t need to pay much in the way of legal fees (the US lawyer’s fees were quite modest) and we handled the EU application ourselves. So, most of the thousands I’ve had to spend is purely down to the official fees in the USA and EU. That’s like a stamp duty you pay to get 10 years of ownership rights in your brand name.

To add context, mine is a lifestyle business. I’m not intending a big exit or any of the traditional things people associate with international trademarks.

 

China as a Risk for Those Manufacturing or Intending to Sell There

China is now the second largest economy on the planet and has become a key market for businesses worldwide. So, securing ownership of your brand in China should be an important part of your plans.

If you hope to manufacture or sell in China, it needs to be an early consideration to take steps to protect your trademark rights in China.

It is typical for businesses to outsource manufacturing of their products to China, and in doing so license their Chinese partner to use their trademark for that purpose.

In some cases, the Chinese manufacturer, or another entity in China, will hijack the brand, registering it as a trademark and securing ownership of the rights to it in China. Case law on this point is developing, but there is a risk that such a hijacker might bring an action against the manufacturer for trademark infringement, stopping production in its tracks. So, even if you manufacture but don’t sell your products in China, you need to secure local trademark protection.

 

Conclusion

As Keith J. Cunningham uniquely puts it, “the name of Napoleon Hill’s book is Think and Grow Rich. It isn’t “Use Your Gut and Grow Rich” or “Sit in a Dark Room, Om, and Visualize a Sack Full of Money Dropping on Your Head and Grow Rich” or “Do What You Love and Grow Rich.” It’s not about touching yourself, closing your eyes, or relying on fantasy economics (which are only effective in fantasies). And it’s certainly not a “Secret.” It’s THINK! (There are no secrets . . . just stuff you haven’t learned yet.)”

His book is well worth reading if you want to add to your tool belt, knowledge, and insights to support you in being thoughtful about your decisions and decision-making process prior to taking action.

As far as trade marking goes, you need to think seriously about getting your trade mark rights in place. You will have a more effective business if you build it on solid foundations, so make it a priority to secure your rights in your brand name immediately.

Copy Safely

Why It’s Vital To Learn How To Copy Safely in the 21st Century

Copy SafelyEasyJet was embarrassed recently when it came to light that a video by Mr Bellow its chief operating officer copied significantly from a speech made by Taoiseach’s Leo Varadkar to mark St Patrick’s day.  The YouTube video comparing the footage of both men demonstrates just how blatant the copying was.

This brought to mind a common question I’m asked when people are creating content or writing books. How much can you borrow from another work? The EasyJet video is a prime example of what not to do if you want to avoid copyright infringement.

A basic understanding of copyright law is essential to navigating life in the 21st century. It shocks me that a senior level executive is going around without this most basic grasp of the law. I doubt millennials and later generations will get by during their lifetime without such essential skills because it’s part and parcel of digital business life today.

The Coronavirus epidemic will forever change the world. Once organisations learn to manage meetings and events virtually, it’s unlikely we will return to a world of physical meetings at the drop of a hat. It’s going to profoundly change business. In a digital world, you need a grasp of IP laws because they are the legal rules that apply to intangibles.

Entrepreneurial Ventures

More and more people are setting up service-based businesses to run their own show. Typically, people want to escape the corporate worlds in which they acquired their skills. They often see an opportunity to develop a niche and to do something differently to improve the customer experience. They want location independence, to have a decent income to feed their family, and most importantly, they want the freedom to manage their work around their lives.  Many of them are driven by a purpose and need to impact the world in their industry.

The Coronavirus epidemic catapults us into a world where all these objectives are even more within reach, as digital existence becomes the norm.

However, using your knowledge and skills in any entrepreneurial venture invariably involves consultancy, and hence the trap of a time for money existence.

Soon after starting up, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to experience overwhelm. They find themselves working all hours because getting the work in requires a significant investment in time and money. Then there is the time involved to deliver your services.

So, in practice, sustaining a self-employed lifestyle often results in a drop in one’s income, and a depletion of your resources of time, and money. In practice there is more stress too.

The service-based business model carries these challenges primarily because there is so much competition in the world. There are too many providers offering almost any service. It can be difficult therefore to escape commoditisation.

How do you survive and thrive in this environment?

I’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to succeed in business in the 15 years or so that I have run my own. Many aspects of IP law, such as trade mark registration are completely commoditised with a plethora of providers, many of whom don’t have the necessary skills, but the public doesn’t realise this.

So, I can add a lot of value for entrepreneurs looking to rethink their businesses in the face of this Coronavirus.

Building a Brand

I’ve learnt that to survive in the globalised, overcrowded market today involves building both your personal and your business brand, and it all takes time. You need to be in it for the long term.

Organisations like Dent have come up with solutions to support entrepreneurs in this environment. They offer programs such as Key Person of Influence to teach their clients how to become more influential in their own industries, and how to use their core knowledge and skills more effectively. Entrepreneurs are advised to write a book, to create product type offerings that are outcome focused rather than based on time for money services.

It’s a program that I have personally attended so I know how well it equips you on many fronts. However, what it does not do is to provide you with the necessary depth of information that you need to navigate intellectual property and brand creation.  This is where my BrandTuned offering comes in to fill the gap for so many existing businesses, as well as for startups.

Branding

Branding is about so much more than visual designs. Before you get to the visual identity phase it’s essential in the 21st century that we now live in, to start any venture with intellectual property because IP impacts how you design your business. If you take decisions that are well-informed by IP your business will be far better adapted for the more digital world we’re now entering.

For example, while it may make sense to publish full details of your methodology depending on what you do, it could sometimes be foolhardy to put your best insights into a book for your competitors to freely use and learn from.

There is no copyright in ideas. If Mr Bellow of EasyJet had had this essential understanding of copyright, he could have freely copied every idea from Taoiseach’s Leo Varadkar’s talk, without exposing himself to copyright infringement accusations. In the 21st century, you need to know how to copy safely from the works that inspire you.

Knowing what to give away when publishing content and what to keep to yourself involves a grasp of intellectual property principles. For example, understanding confidentiality and trade secrecy laws is how I have developed a heightened sensitivity to the commercial value of information. IP law will, therefore, provide the necessary guidance you need on this aspect of your knowledge and skills.

And copyright laws come up at every juncture for a business as does naming. Names are a highly complex subject, except most entrepreneurs don’t realise this and therefore make a number of fundamental mistakes.

Brand Names and Trade Marks

“Productising” your skills and knowledge necessarily involves a skilled use of names. Names are how you give your products their own personality. Names are how you stand out and move buyers to purchase your outcomes-based solutions. Without a clear understanding of how trade mark laws impact your choice of names, it’s very easy to go seriously astray when naming your business or products.

One common error people tend to make, is to choose very banal names which deliver little value, or competitive advantage.

Overly descriptive names are weak because they don’t challenge, excite, or mentally stimulate us. They require little imagination. And they reveal nothing about the personality of your brand (other than exposing your lack of creativity). When you draw from a limited pool of descriptive words, you sound like everyone else, making your name blend in with that of your competitors.

It’s possible to register almost any name with the right type of logo, but what is the value in that? You can’t stop others using the same name if the name can’t be registered on its own as a word mark.

So when you don’t take on board the greatest possibility the law gives you to distinguish your offerings from others and to stand out, then it’s no wonder that despite every effort to make sales and succeed people come unstuck due to poor IP design at the start of their projects. The sort of problems that arise from lack of proper attention to IP are very varied and can include being copied in ways people can do little about.

Missing an Opportunity

Designing a business incorrectly also comes about because people don’t give their brands the depth of thinking that’s necessary to their long-term success. They jump in too quickly to have the visual identity created, so that the thinking about their values and purpose, for example, that’s involved in the branding process, doesn’t run as deep as it needs to.

It’s to fill this gap that I decided to write my book, BrandTuned, How to Perfect, Protect, and Promote your Brand. The book will be out in 2021.

In the meantime, I am providing support to help you get clarity around your IP. This will consist entirely of free sessions I will be running via the BrandTuned Facebook group although for those that want to go deeper with their IP, my digital Legally Branded 2.0 course is available to purchase.

BrandTuned Facebook group

We will be running webinars and posting links to some of these resources in the BrandTuned Facebook group, along with other essential guidance to support you to think through your brand during this difficult period we are all living through.

I’m intending to cover how to think through your personal purpose as well as your business purpose, your values, and what you want to stand for. Who is your product for? What is your brand promise? What names are you choosing? We will cover these and more in some question and answer sessions.

I recommend giving yourself 6-8 months to create your brand strategy so you can come out the other end much better placed to get the traction your brand needs as you promote your business more extensively.

In the meantime, whatever you do, don’t stop creating content. Carry on posting your unique perspective on social media because nothing will give you greater clarity than creating regular content.

brand management

Brand Management – What It Means For Your Business

brand managementIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

Branding is essentially about clarifying who you are, what do you do and what differentiates you. It’s about a lot more than a logo and visual identity.

As mentioned in my post on Branding Strategy last week a brand is a promise that tells customers what they can expect from you.  Having a great product or service is crucial and it goes without saying that you need to give great customer service too.

 

Why Brand?

A brand is necessary but not sufficient.  Marketing works better if you have a strong brand.  The brand transforms the customer’s product experience. It’s the brand that lets the world know what to expect.

Your brand is also a key component to engage and motivate employees. The brand provides a buffer and a cushion. It’s the most valuable intangible asset your business creates as it grows and succeeds.

Branding is an art and a science. Marketing and branding strategy depend on how creatively and originally strategies are conceived and crafted. The hope is to improve the odds for success. It helps to have a consumer mindset and to be able to interpret marketing trends.

 

Why Management of Brands Is Necessary

When you look at brands and how some have fared – such as Yahoo, Myspace or Kodak – based on what is done to them, it’s obvious that management of the brand is going to play a big part in its continuing success.

If we come back in 10 years’ time will the successful brands of today – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix – still be successful? It will depend on how they’re managed and what is done to them.

Brands that innovate and stay relevant don’t die or fade with the passage of time.  They never stand still and are always striving to move forward in the right direction. The brand needs to be managed properly to create meaning and differentiation.

Big businesses have brand managers whose function is essentially to maintain brand equity. That’s how they can reap the benefits of strong branding.

Brand management is built on a marketing foundation and focuses directly on the brand and how that brand can remain favourable to customers. Like most areas of life brand management has been altered by the internet and social media, if for no other reason than the fact that consumers can now talk back at brands. They’re no longer subjects that are at the receiving end of marketing messages crafted by the company. Their response to those messages itself alters the communication in ways that the brand had not intended.

 

The Brand Manager’s Role

A brand manager within a large organisation has responsibility for ensuring sales of a brand. The brand manager has the discretion to do whatever is necessary to secure sales, whether that involves changes to the product itself, its price, the places where the product is sold, how it is promoted, packaged and generally the entire brand proposition.

The brand manager will co-ordinate with various teams across the organisation to implement their strategy and thus promote more sales.  Whether the task involves packaging changes, creative designs, marketing campaigns, IT to enhance the website, legal for regulatory or intellectual property issues such as brand name clearances, the brand manager will draw in the necessary skills to achieve their goals. Their role impacts the bottom line in a measurable and visible way.

The Brand Manager Understands the Brand Landscape

The brand manager makes it their job to understand the role of each department. If, for example, the brand manager decides to alter aspects of the brand, such as its name or visual identity to achieve the desired outcome of increased sales, they are not going to take risks such as of the product infringing on existing trade mark rights. It would be an embarrassing and costly mistake to allow the brand to suffer by ignoring basics of trade mark law.

That’s how the brand is cared for and nurtured to success in large organisations.

When it comes to the small business end of the market, the business owner is the one who needs to fill the role of the brand manager and herein lies the problem. The business owner will invariably lack the understanding of branding and the part that various disciplines need to play to secure success for the brand.

Subscribe to my Youtube Channel below!

 

Branding: The Value Of Working Out Purpose

branding-purpose

Last week I mentioned how I had found my purpose after committing to think about it by regularly revisiting the question.

Branding and Intellectual Property – Why You Should Begin With the End in Mind

This took several months. Part of the reason it might have taken so long is that the question was bound up with how I could turn my intellectual property work into something which includes my interest in business and branding.

I have always been interested in the commercial side of life, which is why I became an in-house lawyer at Reuters.

I’ve been very into marketing, business, and branding since founding Azrights too. So, dealing purely with intellectual property felt like I was only addressing half the issues many of my clients faced.

True some of my clients need purely intellectual property legal work. However, even they have teams to educate on IP, and there is currently no solution on the market to enable them to do this and protect their IP on an ongoing basis. So, I saw a way to add value to them that is not purely about traditional legal services, namely, via Legally Branded Academy 2.0 described below.

Those that are starting new ventures, or growing their businesses would often really benefit if I were more involved, such as with their branding.

I can add significant value in areas that are intertwined with intellectual property law. Often a deep understanding of IP is needed, and I’ve realised that a multidisciplinary approach best serves clients.

As I pondered all this, I wondered what I would offer. I didn’t see that I would add sufficient value by offering branding, so I gradually worked out that I would able to offer value by offering an online course or a one day workshop to begin the process of educating clients.

Also, I can provide a process to make it very easy for branding and other business advisers to get multi-disciplinary input into their projects.

 

Legally Branded Academy 2.0

Gradually over time the online Legally Branded Academy course I had been working on, turned into something quite powerful.

It’s the first intellectual property system that provides a process approach to IP protection and team training.

I’ve spent years thinking about how companies might best manage IP issues if they don’t have a dedicated inhouse IP resource, which few have  You see the very early actions a business takes often have the most significant IP implications from a risk management point of view.

It can already be too late once the business turns to its lawyers to protect its IP if there is a deficiency in its past actions. Legally Branded Academy isn’t a law course, and as such is relevant to the international audience.

It replaces expensive one to one legal advice with processes which embed IP best practice and education. By implementing and using the processes a company trains team members, and protects its IP seamlessly

For example, the course includes a copyright process involving the use of a template at the start of projects to secure ownership of the IP.

As well as basic IP information, there are explanations on issues like IP holding companies, and use of IP symbols including internationally that companies need to know

There are explanations about what types of name are desirable to choose and why from a trade mark perspective. It also covers how to do basic research on a short list of names.

Marketing departments, entrepreneurs, and design agencies that only choose one or two new names a year need access to this sort of information so they choose wisely. A solid process is provided for them to follow when selecting a new name. The information includes “over the shoulder” style instructions on how to pick the classifications to search and how to do basic IP register checks. This sort of assessment of a name is vital before handing over to lawyers for final clearance searches and registration.

This is most certainly not a course about replacing lawyers or doing your own legal work. It’s simply the best way for organisations to manage IP risks and opportunities and avoid mistakes.

Legally Branded Academy 2.0 is the most cost effective way to protect companies in the early stages of any project, such as when they’re trialing new concepts, starting up new businesses etc. Following the processes gives the business ongoing day to day protection so they grow on solid foundations using processes.

They can ensure their teams learn what they need to know about IP, and save time by not needing to undo earlier ill-considered actions and decisions

Legally Branded Academy is my flagship online IP course It reflects a methodology I’ve developed to help organisations introduce simple processes to ensure their IP is protected on an ongoing basis as the business grows and expands.

 

IP is where the value lies

Intellectual property is invariably where the value of a successful business lies, albeit sometimes the IP in some assets may not be initially appreciated. To avoid unpleasant hidden surprises that might, for example, prevent a business exploiting a valuable asset, involves introducing simple measures to secure IP in business assets as these are created.

Legally Branded 2.0 solves the problem of how organizations might put in place solid foundations to manage their IP protection on a day to day basis. Process is the way to do it.

The final point that helped me to arrive at my purpose was down to the changes I’d made to the Azrights business since 2016 when we moved the firm towards remote working.

It’s a journey that has not been without its difficulties and I will probably end up getting offices again soon, but the move to remote working has strengthened the firm considerably and gives us new approaches which we would never have discovered without making this change.

 

 Remote Working

Remote working is still a controversial and complicated topic with a lot of people keen to list the cons.

I outlined our experience of remote working at Azrights in a recent blog and will explore this topic more in future posts given that companies like IBM and Yahoo, both big tech companies, have reversed their positions on employees working remotely.

What message does it spread to the rest of the business world, with regards to this form of working?

Although, I’ve had challenges with remote working, and recruiting the right team members, for myself personally my productivity and satisfaction has benefited enormously from remote working.

I’ve been able to fall in love with my business once again thanks to remote working, and as mentioned, it’s given me the gift of time and the freedom to get on with the task of running the business, and creating new offerings, rather than simply managing the office.

But I do understand why these large corporations have changed their minds on a practice that they once couldn’t get enough of. Not all employees are suited to remote working so remote working can come at a detrimental cost to the business.

What is for sure is that you need to work hard at building the sort of culture change that is needed for successful remote working to be effective.

Reading David Heinermeler Hansson’s book Remote it’s clear that you need to maintain good communication and ensure that employees have complete clarity as to what is expected from them. It’s also desirable to have regular physical and online meetings. Some people even suggest  3 online meetings a week, as well as short 10 minute daily ones!

 

New Azrights office in Hastings

My purpose is to help businesses succeed by better positioning themselves in the market, and protecting that positioning with IP protection. I want to give businesses greater security to grow knowing they’ve protected their assets and underpinned their business with intellectual property processes to protect their IP.

I’m intending to amplify my message by seeking more speaking opportunities, producing more content and creating more partnerships with other businesses and professionals.

I’ll be expanding the Azrights business when I personally move my home from London to Hastings next month.

The London office will remain our headquarters. However, we will also have a Hastings office, and this is where I intend to recruit team members.

Realising how hard it is to find people who are suited to remote working and who can be trusted to remain productive when working remotely it remains to be seen how easy it will be to grow the team.

Certainly, I’ll be looking for local people who can work closely with me. I’m intending to find an admin who might become a trainee solicitor in due course, and also a marketing/sales manager.

I’ll be trying out some new ideas when I engage new team members which includes meeting every week as well as having 2-3 online meetings a week to keep everyone accountable and working towards the good of the business.

The next step now is to meet as many businesses as possible in Hastings. I would love connections to law firms, accountants, design agencies, business coaches, and others. If you know any who might be interested in our launch party do put them in touch. I’d be most grateful.

How to Establish Your Brand

establish brandWhen starting a business, you need to think about how to establish your brand.

Your brand is what drives your business, a set of promises and assurances that customers should think of when they see or hear your name. It is your unique identity that resonates with your target audience and differentiates you from your competitors.

With the correct strategy, your brand will gain in value over time. This value will come from the positive reputation your business develops.

Brand establishment should be considered as a long-term goal and essential to your overall business strategy.

The following tips will help you consider how to establish your brand.

Establish your brand strategy

The first step is to establish your brand strategy.

This should be considered when you first come up with your business idea, and should be kept in mind as your business develops.

As part of the strategy ask yourself what are the promises I want to be associated with my brand and how can I ensure my brand becomes a reflection of these promises? Also, consider what you want as your brand identifier; a word, logo, or both?

Businesses naturally evolve over time, so your brand strategy will need to be reviewed as your business develops.

It’s probably not worth spending a lot of money on designs in the early days.

Search your brand name

Once you have the basis of your brand strategy, you can then take steps to clear your chosen name for use.

A good starting point is to carry out an Internet search for the name. If you find a business using the same name or something very similar, this may cause problems from a trademark perspective.

So, once you have a name you think may be available, you should consider having a final check by a trademark lawyer and get a legal opinion on the name. They can carry out comprehensive searches https://azrights.com/?s=trademark+searches even on an international level, to ensure your chosen name is available for use and stands the best chance of being registered as a trademark.

Trademark your name

Your brand name is an intangible asset and one of the most valuable assets your business will own. When you have chosen your brand name, and cleared it for use through a trademark search, it is essential to protect it through trademark registration.

Registration will help secure the rights in the name and the goodwill your business generates, increasing the overall value of your brand.  Trademarks are split into 45 categories (or classes) of goods and services. This means a name can be used even if it already exists, provided there is no overlap in the goods or services being offered. Trademark drafting is a specialist skill, and should be carried out by an experienced professional or with instruction. This will ensure you aren’t faced with a worthless trademark, or are subject to a legal dispute later down the line.

Apply your trademark

Once you have secured protection for your name, you can then start to apply your trademark as your brand identifier. When applying your trademark to your business, you need to remember that this is what consumers will associate with your brand, so avoid anything which may reflect negatively on your business. Remember, once your trademark is registered, you can use the ® symbol to denote to your customers and competitors that your name is a registered trademark.

Build your brand

As you start to apply your brand to your goods and services, the reputation and goodwill behind the brand will start to gain momentum. This is the time to start building on your brand awareness, promoting the benefits of your business over that of your competitors. The sooner you build on the reputation and recognition of your brand, the quicker your brand will gain value.

Learn what works

It is important to constantly monitor how your customers perceive your brand and whether this perception aligns with your brand strategy. Once your business has been running for some time, this is the point when you may want to revisit your brand strategy and learn what works and what doesn’t. The next steps involve improving your brand and securing additional intellectual property protection, such as for a tagline, so remember the lessons you’ve learnt from past experiences.

Improve your brand

Complacency can be dangerous and may damage the reputation of your brand. As a business, you will need to constantly improve your brand to stay competitive in the market. As you have learnt what works, this is a good time to review your brand strategy and consider what improvements can be made. Perhaps the business can offer more competitive pricing, or the quality of your products has improved, in which case these factors need to be communicated to your customers so they become associated with your business.

Secure your IP

You now have an established brand and a reputation to protect. This is a good stage to carry out an IP audit, and an IP risks test, to see what other rights your business should protect. Since establishing the brand name, there may be a host of other rights which have accrued and should now be protected, consider;

  1. Does my trademark still cover all the goods and services the business offers?
  2. Has my business expanded into other countries?
  3. Are there any other names, slogans or logos which are now associated with my business?
  4. Are there any domain names I should consider registering?
  5. Are all my innovations protected?

By securing the rights in your IP which develop over time, you can continue to increase the value in your brand and ultimately, your business.

Has it worked?

Finally, consider has your brand strategy worked and does it align with your original intentions for the business? If your strategy was to create a promise of lost cost, high-quality goods, does your brand reflect this and is this what customers associate with your brand name?

Having a strong brand strategy and good knowledge of brand protection will help ensure the success for your next product launch, business idea or even just help continue building on the value of your current brand.

Zumba: Anatomy Of A Successful Brand

Zumba is a dance fitness program that has taken the world by storm.

It has become many people’s favoured way of getting fit with as many as 14 million taking weekly Zumba classes, meaning that it has become one of the biggest branded fitness programs in the world.

However, Zumba does not stop at classes.  It runs instructor training courses, sells its own apparel, soundtracks, and merchandise, has its own Z-life magazine, and has even become a video game so that people can take part in its classes from the comfort of their own home (and without fear of judgemental eyes watching all those wrong moves!)

Zumba is much more than simply a fitness program- it has become a brand and a successful one at that.

The fascination with Zumba has become almost like a cult.  In a previous piece, I mentioned how desirable it is for a brand to attain cult status.

A lot of people get fanatical about it. For people who are looking for something in their lives, it offers a closeness, a sense of belonging, a family aspect that you don’t get in a gym’.

It has become something of a lifestyle brand that promotes Zumba’s vision of ‘health and happiness, and of loving everything you do, especially your workout’.

Rather than just fitness, Zumba sells this emotion and feeling of freedom with its powerful tagline ‘Ditch the workout, join the party’.

One thing I want to point out is the importance of the choice of name to Zumba’s success. The original name was Rumbacize, a combination of rumba (“to party” in Spanish, and a musical style and dance name), and Jazzercize. However, that name couldn’t work as I’m sure Zumba found out, so it changed to Zumba

A Lot of Zumba’s Success is Down to Choosing the Right Name

The name ‘Zumba’ has become synonymous with this emotion of freedom and that is why people looking for a dance class might choose a Zumba dance rather than the range of other dance classes available in the market.

It is also what attracts people to buy Zumba branded apparel, soundtracks, and other merchandise because people are buying into this feeling of freedom that is encapsulated by the Zumba name.

Although much of the business’ success has been down to the way it has created and developed its brand, and its success in really connecting to its audience on a level that no other fitness program has done, the choice of name also plays an integral part.

Its choice from a legal perspective has enabled the company to profit from its brand.

The name is also an extremely powerful choice from a branding point of view as well.

Not only is it distinctive, originating as a made-up word, but the actual sound of the name helps to reinforce the image of fun, energy, and freedom that the branding communicates.

Interbrand, discussing brand names from a linguistics point of view, points out that names starting with the letter Z often ‘evoke speed energy or precision’.  This is because the ‘z’ sound is quick and crisp.

Often people don’t realise that names can be highly evocative and the right name can stick in the mind of a customer. With its wide reach and a broad range of products, having a name that is catchy, memorable and well-suited, has been instrumental to Zumba’s success.

A lot can be learnt from Zumba about effective branding.

Not only does it demonstrate the power of creating a brand that goes beyond the product or service you provide- that really connects with your customers, but it also demonstrates how a name can be an effective tool within this branding process. The choice of name can lead to disasters for businesses, and a good choice of name is useless if the name is not capable of achieving a company’s vision.

The Name

Imagine if Zumba had stuck with its original name of Rumbacize or had opted for a less distinctive name.

People are often drawn to descriptive names that tell the world what kind of activity or product the business behind the name offers.  While a name like Rumbacize, if available as a trade mark, is distinctive rather than descriptive, and could potentially be registered as a trade mark, a name like ‘New Latin Dance’ would have been descriptive and incapable of functioning as a trade mark.  Not only is this a boring, impersonal name, but it is also legally ineffective as discussed here.

If you think about it, a descriptive name is the equivalent of not giving something a name. New Latin Dance does not sound as good as Rumbacize or  Zumba, but it’s not just about whether a name sounds good.  There are also powerful legal reasons why a descriptive name should be avoided.  The wrong name would limit a business’ development too. Rumbacize would have limited Zumba’s expansion plans.

Names matter because they are the way in which the law protects a business against various unfair competitive practices.  Specifically, the name is key in determining the extent to which you can control the use of a name.  The law does not give a business much control over who uses a descriptive name.  It’s free for everyone to use.

Therefore, names that describe the activity of the business, such as New Latin Dance, are not capable of functioning as a trademark.  The practical impact of this would be felt by a Zumba type business because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop others also using the name, and all sorts of different providers would have been able to call their classes by that name.

Suggestive names

But even if the founders had stuck to their original choice of Rumbacize, which is not descriptive, but is suggestive of the activity, and capable of being trademarked, they would still have found it difficult to control the use of the name.

While suggestive names can be an extremely good choices in some circumstances, they are unsuitable for some business situations.  For a Zumba style business which has ambitions to extend its reach internationally and to other areas of business activity, such as films, magazines, videos, clothing, and other merchandise, as Zumba has done, a distinctive made-up name is essential.

So, the question of how effective a given name would be for your plans depends on your plans.  The point I want to emphasise is that a name raises a number of legal issues, and should never be finalised without consulting a specialist brand lawyer.

Where a name leans too far in the direction of descriptiveness, bear in mind that even though you may secure a trademark over it, you may find it harder to enforce your rights.  You may have to spend a lot of time and money and even then would find it difficult to prevent others from using variations of your name.  That is why the EasyGroup spends far more money on litigation to try to control the use of their name than does Ryan Air.

Why does such control matter anyway?

Through having a name that is highly distinctive and trademarking it, Zumba is able to control who uses its name, meaning it can stop competitors offering similar products under similar names. It can license its programs so that those who want to provide Zumba classes may do so.

Zumba has become much more than just a dance program.  As mentioned, the choice of name has contributed to the company’s success giving it exclusive rights over the name in many different categories.  The company’s ability to trademark its unique name in a number of categories is the reason why it is able to generate additional revenue from the brand.

How seeking an early trademark contributed to Zumba’s success

Not only did Zumba choose the right kind of name, but if it had failed to register a trademark when the dance took off, the rapid success of the dance could have rendered its name generic, jeopardising the founders’ chances of registering a trademark.

For similar reasons, Microsoft nearly lost the chance to register its Windows name, having waited five years to file a trademark application, by which time it was considered ‘merely descriptive’ in relation to computer software, nearly destroying Window’s brand equity.

Microsoft eventually secured a registration, but would a new company have had the resources of Microsoft to pursue its case?

The significance of a trademark

Failure to appreciate the critical role of trade marks when choosing a name, and clearing it before registering the name as a trademark are essential ingredients to creating a brand.  If the name isn’t registered while you’re getting visual designs done then anyone could freely use the name in relation to their goods and services, meaning Zumba could not have used the name or stopped its use by others. The wrong name would have also reduced Zumba’s ability to expand. It would have remained a small scale short term business rather than the massive brand that it’s become today.

This demonstrates how the value of a brand is in its name.  From that, licensing and other opportunities flow.

Conclusion

If you don’t have a name that matches your business plans and don’t take the right actions to clear and protect it you’re leaving yourself vulnerable during any branding exercise.  The name is key to reaching your goals if they involve achieving a big scalable business so make sure you involve an experience brand lawyer at an early stage.

brand

What Makes an Outstanding Brand

Last week in Why Purpose is Paramount I explained that it’s the responsibility of the leaders of a business to work out the “why” for the business. When looking for the purpose behind a business find one that’s capable of inspiring the team and customers too. Your “why” should be a belief that galvanises you into making long-lasting positive changes that drive growth and innovation. A business’ purpose needs to motivate team members who are involved in the business.


I was intending, this week, to explore how purpose-driven organisations stay core to their mission by keeping their “why” uppermost. However, as I began to research this topic, I realised there is a lot of ground to cover. So, I’m postponing those pieces till next year. 

Instead I’m going to do an in depth focus on differentiation, and positioning to explain how a business might attempt to stand out among its competitors. This is fundamental to successful branding, and is part and parcel of the branding work that gives rise to intellectual property issues.

Up to now I’d stuck to my core skills of intellectual property law due to the school of thought that one should stick to ones core subject and not foray into other areas. However, given that intellectual property is part and parcel of business, a narrow perspective that purely considers intellectual property doesn’t serve many of the small businesses I often help. If I only discuss half the issues people face, then I’m potentially letting businesses receive the wrong type of help for their branding. You see a problem I notice is that some web developers, designers, marketers who help small businesses with their identity work,  don’t themselves understand IP. So they tend to not take a holistic approach and often neglect the legal dimension meaning that what is arguably the single most important decision a business makes gets side lined.  However, as people don’t really understands intellectual property, the consequences are not immediately apparent to them. For example, the business may not do so well down the line because it has an inadequate name that doesn’t protect it from competitors stealing its market share.

Intellectual property is just a means to an end. It’s rarely the end itself. So, when businesses are creating a brand, choosing a name, having a logo developed and devising their brand identity or promotion campaigns, that’s when they also need to find out about intellectual property. IP is simply part of the exercise.

Therefore, it’s appropriate that I offer holistic help by taking in non-legal topics from now on. This is especially so as I do understand the wider issues about branding very well, having been in business for 14 years, read a lot of business books, and even received advanced training in business. Indeed, a few clients have asked for me to help with naming too. So I am capable of guiding a business through the branding process.

Differentiating a business

When you have an offering or a way of doing business that is unique to you it becomes much easier to succeed as a business.

You should formulate your strategy for how to stand out from competitors. Then execute on your plans.

Differentiation effectively involves working out what messages to communicate to consumers so they know that buying from you will give them a specific benefit. This benefit must be powerful enough to influence a buyer to choose your business over all the other available options.

This is easier said than done, if the legal market is anything to go by. I’ll write a separate post about the issues for law firms. For now I just want to highlight how possible it is to find that virtually every message you come up with to differentiate yourself doesn’t distinguish you or competitors are saying the same things. Where there is insufficient differentiation between businesses customers choose on price, and that is the problem the legal industry faces. That’s why the business models that are winning in the legal services market invariably focus on reduced prices.

Differentiation strategy

Whether you get help to work out your differentiating strategy or deal with all your own “branding”, even design your own logo, I can’t stress how important it is that you take ownership of the differentiation strategy. You know your industry and service offerings better than anyone.

Once you do clarify how you will stand out, you should translate your differentiating proposition into a name, logo, and tagline which embody the values of your business and positioning. These are the elements of a brand that the law protects through copyright, design and trademark registrationand are usually when people get outside help.

It’s really important to know what you’re doing when it comes to names, and taglines. My Legally Branded Academy course gives you all the knowledge and search instructions you’ll need to get this important aspect of your business and initial legal protection covered off. Don’t assume that people you turn to for help will know all about intellectual property, because often they won’t have sufficient in depth knowledge of intellectual property, and many of them don’t work with specialist lawyers.

Common problems with brand identities do tend to centre around names, logos or taglines. For example, a commonplace logo may be an image of a bunch of flowers for a florist.

Descriptive elements might work from a marketing perspective but they don’t serve you from a legal perspective. If they are purely descriptive of the products or services you sell then names, and taglines will be incapable of protecting your market share.

The very choice of name itself could expose you to loss of revenues. Also, if the name wasn’t properly checked, then you risk trade mark infringement actions against you, years down the line when your business might have taken off and succeeded.

Descriptive names may seem attractive to start ups who want their name to immediately convey what it is that they do. However, being simply descriptive means the name won’t function as a trademark. This matters because it means you will have a hard time stopping copy cats down the line if you have a successful business.

 Unless you understand both the legal dimension and the marketing dimension when choosing brand elements there is every possibility of choosing ones that are either incapable of functioning as a trademark or which are not legally available for the user

Why descriptive names are a problem

Hotels.com is an example of a descriptive name that the business has been unable to register as a trade mark. They’ve spent a lot of money in pursuing registration and arguing with the USPTO but they didn’t succeed.


Bear in mind when choosing names that on the internet there are no shop signs or geographic areas to attract passing traffic. With an offline shop called ‘Books’ someone driving past may notice the bookshop for reasons other than its name. For example, the shop may stand out due to its striking window dressing, or by virtue of its location, or simply because it is now there instead of the print shop that used to occupy that space. On the web, people will only find you through your brand name. So, the last thing you need is to get lost among a sea of similarly named businesses. You should definitely opt for very distinctive names for an online business, similar to Google, Twitter, Amazon, Yahoo and so on.

 

Had John Lewis developed a strap line saying: ‘We will refund the difference if you buy goods from us which you find at a lower price elsewhere’ that would have conveyed their ethos but it would not have been capable of trademark protection. By going further and converting this concept into ‘Never knowingly undersold’ they ended up both with something catchier and with a unique tagline that is capable of trademark protection.


A while ago we introduced a strapline for Azrights – Easy Legal Not Legalese – which we have trademarked, but admittedly not made much use of.

What it means when you can secure trade mark protection of a slogan is that competitors may well copy the differentiation idea behind your slogan – for example, branding themselves by reference to their use of ‘plain English’ – but they won’t be able to copy your strapline.

In the early days that may seem unimportant when a strapline is not well known. But it’s by protecting and making use of a strap line that businesses like NIKE have become known for – JUST DO IT, or Coca-Cola is immediately recognised when we hear “The Real Thing” If you don’t protect brand elements like slogans then your distinctive branding will become generic as others can use it with little consequence.

It’s when a brand is successful that it pays off to have built and protected the brand elements of its identify carefully in the early days. So, think about the legal dimension of your branding once you’re serious about your business because it can potentially comprise 70% of the value of your business.

Copyright Protection of an App

The way copyright works to protect an app provides useful insights into copyright generally. Essentially, the important point to hold onto about copyright is that the default rules mean that the creator of the app will be the owner of the copyright in it rather than you the person who pays for the development work.

Therefore, an important first step before you select the right developer is to make sure they will be happy to give you a copyright in the end product.

However, don’t just have a verbal agreement on this point as that’s not enough under the law. You’ll need to reflect this in writing and also have a good development agreement in place. That agreement should clearly specify what is the be developed, the phases of the development, the payment plan, and how to resolve any disputes that may arise. Don’t agree to terms that only give you copyright when the project is concluded and you’ve paid for it. If for any reason you need to part company with the developer before then, you will want to have the source code and all rights in the work so you can find another developer to finish the work.

It’s also important to be mindful about the limitations of copyright protection. Copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than an idea itself.

This means that if I publish a recipe for how to make rabbit pie, my copyright in the recipe isn’t going to prevent you or anyone else from making the rabbit pie using my recipe. You would not be infringing my copyright in doing so.

If, on the other hand, you copied my recipe and distributed it to others, then my rights would be infringed because copyright protects the way I’ve expressed my idea. The law gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to copy the recipe in order to distribute it to others.

Translating that into how copyright protects an app means that if someone sees your app and decides they can do better than you, say you’re Magic Cabs and an Uber comes along, looks at your app, and thinks, this is a good idea, I’ll also develop an app along similar lines, they can do so without infringing your copyright. The only way they would be infringing your copyright is if they actually copied the code of your app. But if they got the idea from seeing your app and then go away and implemented the idea in their own way they would not be infringing your copyright.

So, when you have an idea for a new app bear in mind that innovation alone is no guarantee of success. You need to do thorough research, set your marketing strategy, and consider how best to develop the app to meet a market need. You can achieve a strong barrier to entry with the name you use for your app if it’s well conceived and addresses a market need. Be sure to pay close attention to the intellectual property rights around names before you buy domain names.

Raising investment

If you need to raise investment, while you may believe your idea is unique, bear in mind that investors will often be approached by numerous start-ups, some of whom may have very similar apps. So, don’t make the fundamental error of asking them to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement to look at your app idea.  You need to have taken all the necessary steps to protect your idea before you turn to investors. There should at least be a proof of concept for them to see, and if yours is a product that could be patented, then you need to file the patent-pending application before discussing the idea with third parties. Only confidential ideas that are not in the public domain are patentable.

So, once you’re ready to discuss your idea with investors you should be in a position to do it openly without need of NDAs.

Essentially, there is no guaranteed formula for success. There will be aspects to your business plan which you cannot control, yet they may have a great impact on your chances of success. Factors include national and global economic climate, geographic location, trends in popular culture, access to valuable contacts. Plain old luck also plays a part.

 Obtaining financing is not necessarily about the technical feasibility or the originality of the idea itself.  Sometimes, it can be more about you as a person, and whether you are aware of the qualities and skill sets needed to convince the right people to support you.

Private investors (also known as Venture Capitalists or Angel Investors) take a lot of interest in the make-up of the team. Often, they are very interested in the people that are backing the idea. They are predominately looking for a person who, as one investor put it, has the ‘disease of entrepreneurism’. For most investors, the personal dimension is so important that they would even invest in an average idea if the people were right. This suggests that if you’re looking for financial backing for your app, you should have entrepreneur drive, and some of the key skills that potential investors will look for in you are inventiveness; creative ability; the ability to package and communicate ideas. Without this, it is difficult to get the necessary investor confidence.

Conclusion 

This blog has highlighted how copyright works, what it does and doesn’t protect, and the importance of first protecting your idea before turning to investors for funding.

Given the traits investors will look for before investing in your ideas, there are areas of self-development to consider if your vision is for something big. Focus on developing some key qualities, such as leading a team, which is essential for success in business. You’ll need to ‘re-invent’ yourself or find the right team to work with who can make up skills that may be lacking in you.

Legally Branded Podcast – Intellectual Property: The Challenges of Protecting Ideas

podcast_shireen_smithEven if an idea involves creating something tangible, the product resulting from that idea has many components, which are intangibles, that are necessary to its existence. So if you happen to have a great idea, how do you protect it? In this episode, find out how you can address the challenges of protecting intellectual property.

Click to Listen to Legally Branded podcast.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • The challenges of protecting intellectual property
  • The best way to begin to address intellectual property
  • How to reduce the legal costs
  • The intangibles and their impact
  • How to make it easier to build management of IP in the day to day running of your venture

 

Key Takeaways:

  • For many people, an idea is their key to economic success. Therefore, being able to protect its resulting output as intellectual property is crucial if the business is to grow in value.
  • People assume that they automatically own intellectual property, but this is not true. An action is required to turn an idea into IP.
  • Leveraging IP is how the value embedded in it is realised.
  • A new venture, when it’s just in your head, that’s when you need to understand the risks and opportunities.
  • The best way to achieve success and avoid wasting unnecessary time and energy down the line is to learn the essentials of trademark and other intellectual property that are involved when turning ideas into something that’s out in the real world.
  • Intangible assets cannot be measured unless they are managed.
  • For any new venture, the time to think about IP protection and intangibles is when writing the business plan. And the business plan, when it’s written, should set the strategy on IP matters.

 

Action Steps:

  • To avoid losing an opportunity and create valuable intellectual property, first identify what it is you’re going to create, what actions you need to take to capture it and, depending on the IP in question, what other actions you need to take.
  • Conduct proper checks of trademark registers. It’s also possible to create a liability instead of an asset where proper checks of trademarks registers aren’t first undertaken.
  • Consider IP really early on in the early stages of a project. Get a good understanding of IP and eliminate the risks that dealing with IP in a piecemeal fashion has.
  • Focus on the intangibles. This is the way you can preserve the investment of your business in its brand, creative efforts, design, and technology.

 

Shireen said:

“The name of the game with intellectual property is to be proactive in the early stages of any project when turning an idea into something concrete in the real world.”

 

“IP knowledge and skills are how you protect yourself. And even if you intend to use a lawyer, you need to know some of it yourself. It’s just not an option to not understand intellectual property in this day and age.”

 

Thank you for listening!

 

Look into my Legally Branded Academy Course to upskill yourself and your team, and discover the roadmap for a successful implementation of ideas! It’s not an alternative to use lawyers, it’s simply equipping YOU with the business skills in today’s digital economy.

 

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