Tag Archives: copyright

Are You Looking to Brand or Rebrand Your Business?

If you’re considering a rebrand or are setting up a new venture start by taking this post on board as it could help you avoid many mistakes people commonly make.

That’s because society hasn’t yet caught up with the huge changes the internet has caused. The way you go about rebranding needs rethinking, yet most people don’t realise this.

I remember hearing about the internet for the first time in the mid-90s during my intellectual property masters’ degree studies. My mind was completely blown away by Professor Chris Reed’s IT law lectures at QMW, London University.  Back then the internet was still very much about Janet an academic network. Professor Reed’s lectures were so inspiring in terms of the significant role the internet would play in our lives, that I was compelled to enlist my husband’s support- he is an IT professional – to get us a dial-up internet connection.

Over the ensuing years the internet has evolved to become what it is today – an essential part of all our lives and businesses.

 

What This Means for Business

It is still hard to believe that in such a short space of time the internet has evolved to radically change the rules. Its thrown many industries into chaos, and in other cases, the internet has subtly, and forever altered how we need to approach things, including branding.

The upshot of these changes, as highlighted in my two books, Legally Branded and Intellectual Property Revolution mean that IP now needs to be one of the first considerations when there is a new project or brand to create.

 

IP is Part and Parcel of Business

So many people I come across say: “What is IP?” And those who are aware of it, assume it’s to be dealt with in the same way as in pre-internet days. Largely, IP is considered to be something you might want to consider if you’re wildly successful or if you prefer to protect your IP rather than just using it. It’s perhaps unsurprising that society hasn’t yet caught up with the changes, given that it’s still just 20 years or so that the internet has been around.

More than 70 % of corporate value today comprises intangible assets. Intangibles are governed by intellectual property law. Without question intellectual property in the form of patents, trade secrets, copyright, trade marks, contractual relationships, and know-how comprises a significant portion of some of this value.

What is less well appreciated is that these assets do not automatically just exist. Some steps often need to be taken to turn ideas into IP. IP could be lost if not identified, captured, and secured, or if the wrong choices are made – such as of the name for a business or product. The wrong name really can make business so much more of a struggle. The name is the most important way to make a business distinctive and must be chosen with the involvement of trade mark experts.

Leveraging IP is how value embedded in it is realized. An awareness of intangible assets is the way to manage them, and preserve the investment a business makes in its brands

 

How Aware Are You of Critical IP Issues Affecting Your Business?

 Thinking about IP first when you have an idea or project, is a good way to start managing and protecting IP. Have a strategy for handling your IP.

Why is failing to capture your Intellectual Property a costly problem?

It is surprisingly easy to overlook the importance of IP at the early stages of developing your ideas, and to lose the entire value of your business in the process, simply because of a lack of awareness of IP.

Inventors and entrepreneurs often believe that simple tasks like choosing a name for a new product do not involve particular legal consideration. This is not true. The name is too important to choose without reference to trade mark expertise.

For example, you could lose everything overnight as Scrabulous found out. The business was unaware that using a name that was similar to someone else’s trade mark would be a problem. Two Indian brothers developed an app that allowed people to play a word game online with friends anywhere in the world. It was a huge success. Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble trade mark, found out about the company and had no trouble getting Facebook to pull the app. So the business vanished from one day to the next.

Had the two brothers realised that their choice of name could shut them down they would have chosen a different name for their online game. But they didn’t take advice from trade mark experts.

 

Not Realising You’re Making IP Mistakes

But this isn’t the only way names can cause problems. People are often unaware that it’s their keyword rich name that blatantly describes their business services that’s the cause of their lack of success. This is something difficult to understand because from a search engine and marketing point of view descriptiveness is no bad thing. But to name your brand with a descriptive term is plain wrong. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make and what’s worse they may never realise that the reason business is a struggle is precisely because of their name.

Another example of how failure to understand IP can result in loss is the Karaoke machine.

Mr. Daisuke Inoue, the inventor, earned nothing from the billion-dollar industry that the invention spawned. He never thought of patenting his invention until it was too late. Had he done so it could have made him millions.

Reflecting on their experiences, one can’t help feeling ‘it’s not fair!’ that it was the multinationals and not them who made massive financial gains from these inventions. However, their case is not unusual and even now many inventors know little about their intellectual property rights.

The lesson is simple – if you are an inventor, or entrepreneur you need to know about IP.

Business and IP are intertwined. Don’t think of embarking on branding without first looking at IP. Use a trade mark lawyer who “gets” branding to support you in any naming exercise.  Why? Because IP and trademarks are one of those subjects where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

using process

Building a Business on Solid IP Foundation Using Process

using processIP is quite straightforward when you understand the fundamentals. Get them right in your business and you can build the business on solid foundations long term.

I suggest you start by reviewing what intellectual property means because it really helps to see the big picture. When you’re not familiar with intellectual property terminology, you don’t know whether it’s patents or copyright, or trade mark that is relevant to your situation. This makes it difficult to know where to start and what to read. So a basic grasp of IP so you can identify the different intellectual property rights is essential for successfully navigating the digital environment nowadays.

Digitalisation is fast changing the world, and with it the skills we need in order to manage our businesses. The changes brought about by the internet have made IP central to every business because most assets of businesses nowadays are intangible and the legal area that deals with intangibles is intellectual property. Every entrepreneur would do well to learn the basic language of IP.

The meaning of IP terms is fairly universal the world over due to the many international treaties that have been signed between countries to enforce and protect intellectual property.

Most significant intellectual property issues occur in the early stages of projects, before anyone would even think of consulting a lawyer. And most serious IP mistakes happen because the IP angle wasn’t addressed first when embarking on projects. The IP strategy I’m advocating is to think about IP first, rather than assuming it can be protected later.

It’s clearly impractical to consult lawyers every time you have a new initiative or project. For one thing, people often want to test the water, wait and see if the project has legs before asking a lawyer for help to protect the concept.

However, as “protection” needs to happen in the early stages of projects – for example, by making correct choices, doing the right due diligence research, and taking the right actions, an understanding of the longer-term implications of your early actions when implementing new ideas is essential.

This is where procedures come into their own, as a way to protect IP.

The key to protecting  IP assets invariably involves taking steps at the start of projects when new IP is about to be created. The ideal is to have a process so you don’t need to specifically think about how to protect IP.

Using processes in your business is how you can make sure you take the right actions early on in order to be protected when implementing your ideas. There is no need to consult lawyers. Seeking legal advice is often not the most practical way of dealing with IP in the early stages of projects. You can instead ensure you don’t lose valuable rights, even where the idea is patentable, simply by using the right processes.

By adopting some or all of the processes that are provided in Legally Branded, anyone can protect their IP on an ongoing basis. Just make sure your team understands the events that trigger a process. They will then be able to ensure your IP is protected even though they may not know anything about IP.

The procedures could be spelt out in an office manual or on your wiki or intranet. Then when inducting new team members train them to identify the trigger points for use of your processes.

Learn more about the Legally Branded Academy 2.0.

image rights

Image Rights. Do They Prevent You Using a Celebrity’s Image?

image rightsIn the lead up to the Christmas and new year season, most of us are accustomed to seeing television advertisements featuring well-known actors and personalities endorsing a range of luxury products such as perfumes and watches.

Indeed the John Lewis Christmas advert is a television advertising campaign which is released in the build-up to Christmas. John Lewis launched their first Christmas advert in 2007. It has since become something of an annual tradition in British popular culture, The adverts tend to attract widespread media coverage and acclaim upon their release

Obviously a personality like Sean Connery will have been handsomely rewarded for endorsing a famous brand of watch. The question people often wonder about is to what extent a person, famous or otherwise, can control the use of his or her image or likeness on products or services. Can, for example, use Sean Connery’s image to sell your calendars bearing his image on the front cover?

In the UK there is as yet no recognised legal right of publicity or personality. This means that a person has no specific legal right in the UK to control the unauthorised use of their image or appearance.

Celebrities do have some legal remedies though, so be careful before you use a famous person’s image. Has the celebrity registered their name or signature as a trade mark?

Even if the famous person has not registered a trade mark of their image or likeness, that person may still be able to successfully challenge use by others of their image on the basis of  passing-off, which is a legal remedy that protects the goodwill which has been built up by a person in their business. Their argument would be that you are wrongfully appropriating that goodwill. To succeed, they have to prove 3 elements: a recognised goodwill in the UK, a misrepresentation by the defendant, and damage caused to the claimant’s goodwill.

For present purposes, the key element to be proved by the famous person or celebrity is misrepresentation: will the public be misled into believing that my 2020 calendar bearing the image of, say, Sean Connery on its cover has been approved by or has some connection with that former Bond star?

brand strategy

Brand Strategy Is Essential For Success In Business 

I recently wrote an extensive piece Brand Strategy Why Every Business Needs One on my personal blog.

Brand strategy is one of the most important issues to deal with if you want to create a business that grows in brand value and delivers more leads and opportunities.

We’re developing a methodology to support our clients to create their brand strategy and it’s important to take a fresh look at what you think “brand” means when considering this piece and the videos here.

Brand, branding, intellectual property, trade mark, business design – these are all very much misunderstood as terms, or people don’t even know what they mean. Yet these are really important issues for a business to take on board whether it’s starting up, scaling or looking to exit.

In the blog post and first video, I explain what is involved in working out your brand strategy.

Don’t assume bigger businesses all have brand strategies because many of them don’t have one – particularly tech companies as they focus all their attention on the product.

Uber is an example of what happens when you don’t have a brand strategy.  While the business is a success and has even reached unicorn status, its lack of attention to brand has caused numerous problems. In the second video, I go into Uber’s case in more depth.

If you want support to craft your brand strategy so as to build brand value, and attract more leads and opportunities then do get in touch. We can help you whether you’re a start up, scale up or a business looking to plan your exit.

Internet Rules – Changes The Rules of Branding

The internet has changed the rules for many industries. In my books Legally Branded and Intellectual Property Revolution, I explained how the internet impacts the intellectual property industry.

Here is how I see it changing the branding industry, at least as regards the branding of service-based businesses.

 

Branding Industry Approach

The branding industry has traditionally left IP to be dealt with by lawyers later once the brand has already been created.

The approach is to design the brand, and then go to lawyers to protect the new brand.  Sometimes the designer even suggests names and then checks them out on Google and on company and domain sites.

The trouble with this approach is that you need to check the name properly whether you are choosing the name for the client or the client has found its own name. Many problems have arisen for businesses that failed to do this fundamental checking. By leaving it to the client to seek out legal advice, it’s potentially setting the client up for difficulties because in many cases people don’t bother to seek protection at all or if they look for help they get it from a business lawyer rather than from a trade mark expert. So the business misses out on important advice.

This approach was viable in a pre-internet world where there were fewer brands and less visibility if you were using a name that belonged to someone else.

Intangible Assets

In an internet environment where virtually all assets of a business are intangibles, it becomes foolhardy to leave IP like trade marks till later. IP plays such a central role in business that it must be the starting point when planning any project or venture.

Some of the intangible assets that businesses own, or which benefit them nowadays are things like data, processes, relationships, networks, culture etc. These may have always existed in the past but now that most assets are intangible, they have taken on greater significance.

Many of these assets don’t neatly fall within the traditional definition of intellectual property – that is, patents, designs, trade marks, copyright, and confidential information.

They are intellectual capital though and you need to understand IP even more deeply to know how best to protect and deploy this newer form of asset within your business.

I use IP here in its widest sense, to refer to all the knowledge and skills a business might use in order to succeed.

 

IP Risks and Opportunities

IP risks and opportunities impact the way you create a brand strategy and design the structure of a business. For this reason, where in the past I would describe myself as an intellectual property lawyer, now I see myself as an Intellectual Property lawyer with a difference. That’s because I integrate IP, brand, and marketing to support startups, scale ups, and those exiting their businesses to design a business that builds in value and attracts more leads and opportunities.

I’ve spent years studying brands and marketing closely. I’ve read hundreds of books, attended dozens of courses, been through a couple of branding exercises and am so interested in the topic that I am a constant student in this area of business.

 

Future trends

I foresee that in future we will see more and more intellectual property lawyers integrating IP, brand, and marketing, to ensure their clients businesses are built for success.

In larger businesses, different departments are currently involved in issues relating to the brand– IT, marketing, PR, design, and legal.  In the future, they will be more multidisciplinary in approach. Every team will involve a trade mark lawyer who “gets” branding and therefore can advise on brand from a legal dimension as well as from a business perspective.

The legal services industry is undergoing fundamental challenges and transformations and will continue to do so in the coming years. Many lawyers will realise that they are in a wider business than their current narrow focus on pure law.

Trade mark lawyers need to focus more on the brand and become the business advisers of choice for organizations that are formulating their brand strategy. They could give so much more value than simply being asked to search names for availability.  But for them to deliver more value involves a sea change in training and education.

One significant advantage these professionals currently have is their depth of understanding of the legal aspects of the brand. As such they are better placed than people from other disciplines such as design or marketing to advise on brand. Many designers and marketers come to branding with no understanding of IP law at all.

While they are suitable for creating the visual identity, or marketing plan, they have a huge learning curve to advise on the IP aspects of branding, which are of central relevance when you’re designing a business.

The methodology I’ve developed to support my clients ensures they choose names that are in line with their positioning and by working with us they have the added benefit of very cost effective IP protection that’s thrown in as part of the work. It requires very little effort to support them on the copyright or to draft an effective trade mark application when you’re working closely with them and understand their business intimately.

Our process also focuses on designing the business correctly to ensure it attracts leads and opportunities as a starting point for working out its positioning and name.

The creation of a visual identity is postponed till much later.

In my new book, I’ll be explaining why I think it’s essential in the new world we live in to separate brand strategy and business identity, from visual identity creation. The two disciplines really should be kept separate.

The word brand and branding is much misused and misunderstood.

The shift that has happened in society due to the internet is being felt in every area of life, and it’s important that businesses understand why their first port of call when looking to brand their business should not be a designer.

Last week I explained in my blog Why is a good name important to a company just how important names are to a company. Do read it to understand this important topic which may seem quite minor but actually plays a central part in the success of a business.

Intellectual property

Intellectual Property Rights – Frightening?

I was speaking to a designer recently who said that people find IP rights very frightening.

That intrigued me. Why fear IP? Is it that you fear what you don’t understand? Is it that IP is a nuisance perhaps?

Whatever the reasons for this designer’s comment the reality is that IP is part and parcel of business. You need to be mindful of IP all the time, whether you’re starting a new project or business or growing or exiting a business.

 

It’s Possible It’s Not Your Intellectual Property

The fact that it’s possible that something you assume is yours is regarded by the legal system as not yours is a difficult concept to grasp perhaps. That’s because IP often resides within something else. At it’s simplest you may own a book but you don’t own the copyright in that book. It belongs to the author or the publisher. Similarly, you may own your website in the sense that it’s your site, but not necessarily own the copyright in its designs and functionality. What this means is that you can use it for your business but if you try to licence valuable parts of the design or functionality to others in order to generate a new income stream you would be prevented from doing so because you don’t own the copyright and designs in it.

Questions that arise in relation to IP include:

  • What type of IP is it?
  • How should you protect it so it can be yours?
  • What should you do to turn your idea into IP that you can own?
  • Is it essential to keep your idea secret so you can own valuable IP?
  • Are you infringing on other people’s Intellectual Property?

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (“IP”) is an umbrella term that describes a range of rights in intangible assets, such as:

        • Copyright: in various works like photographs, words, music, logos, and software.
        • Designs: rights in the shape of goods like ipads, or bottles, or in the surface design of materials such as wallpaper.
        • Trademarks: rights in packaging, names, slogans, and logos.
        • Patents: over an innovation which was previously unknown, like the bagless Dyson vacuum cleaner.

IP rights are territorial, which means you are generally protected in the countries in which you register them. For IP rights that arise automatically, such as copyright, you will have wider protection worldwide thanks to international treaties between countries.

Also, there are useful measures you can and should take in other countries to better protect your assets.

 

Owning Intellectual Property

To own intellectual property rights it’s necessary to take the right actions in relation to your ideas. That’s how you avoid discovering that your ideas become someone else’s intellectual property. It’s important when commissioning someone to carry out certain types of activity that results in new IP to have the right agreements in place.

Otherwise, you could find that:

  • your logo belongs to the designer who created it.
  • your website is not yours to do with as you like

Due to the IP default rules, it’s all too possible if you don’t know the right actions to take, to find that you pay for work to be created, but that you don’t own the rights to exploit it.

The biggest trap to avoid is finding that your idea for business software becomes the IP of those who develop it.

 

Avoid Infringement

It’s necessary to think of IP in two ways. Firstly, whether you will be infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights. Secondly, whether someone else is infringing on your rights.

Doing searches of various kinds and registering rights is key to protecting inventions and names. As it’s necessary to protect your turf against copycats, disputes can arise all too easily, so you need help to manage and resolve them, even if that doesn’t involve a last resort of using the court process.

Typically, not owning copyright to something important in your business is undesirable. This could result in the sale of your business falling through.

To protect IP involves implementing a range of legal agreements, not just when you’re setting up a new website, or licensing your IP or selling products and services online, but also as you grow the business. It becomes even more important with growth of a business to have good agreements in place that protect your intellectual property.

Protecting a new name, software and other assets against copying of all kinds, or an invention that could be patentable are reasons to deal with IP. It’s what makes your business valuable.

So going back to the question I started with, whether IP is frightening, it’s not IP that is the problem so much as ignorance of something important in business.

We are still at the early stages of the digital economy, but the more digital our lives become the more essential it is to get a good understanding of IP and protect your business. Start by having an intellectual property assessment and advice. We provide this at Azrights.

copyright dispute

Copyright Infringement and Copyright Disputes

copyright disputeThe most common copyright dispute we see involves an image used on a website which the website owner does not own or have permission to use.

The reason this happens is that either a web designer has grabbed an image from the internet and used it in the site design, or someone within the business has done so. This mistake is invariably caused by the assumption that material on the internet is in the public domain and may be freely used.  Alternatively, people unwittingly use material that infringes on someone else’s rights because they had not realised that the copyright licence they obtained does not permit them to use the image for the purpose or in the ways they have used them.

Infringement is sometimes deliberate. For example, there may be an existing contractual arrangement in place governing copyright and the contract is terminated, breached or is otherwise in dispute.

As the copyright owner is the person that has exclusive rights to copy and distribute the image or other copyright works, infringement disputes can arise all too often.

Where someone copies or distributes copyrighted work without the authorisation of the copyright holder, they may be liable for copyright infringement. That is, unless they can establish that an exception applies or that they have a valid defence.

For example, there are exceptions to infringement in certain limited circumstances, such as. in certain situations where someone makes personal use of the work, rather than commercial use.

Copyright Ownership Disputes

When a work or product is created that the law protects through copyright, then the copyright in that work usually belongs to the person who creates it. The law refers to that person as the ‘author’.

Where a work is created by two or more people, it can be complicated to work out who owns the copyright. So, whenever a work is created jointly with others it’s important to discuss how to control that ownership so that the work can be exploited even if a dispute arises between the copyright owners.

Copyright infringement might arise if there have been many changes in ownership as it is difficult to work out who owns the copyright, and can give permission to use it.  For example, if you see an image on a website that you want to use and ask the website owner if you may use it, then even if they give you permission, you could be infringing copyright unless they have permission to give someone else permission to use the image.

Note that where work is commissioned from another business or freelancer it is sensible to clarify in writing who is to own the copyright.

The legal rules that apply in default, lead to some surprising consequences. Where a contract is not used disputes are much more likely to arise.

 

Resolving Copyright Disputes

The first step in a copyright infringement dispute might be a cease and desist letter.  If you receive such a letter get legal advice.

Copyright infringement disputes are normally resolved through negotiation between the parties. Failing an agreed settlement the dispute would be decided by the courts.

 

startup intellectual property

Intellectual Property Business Advice For Startups

startup intellectual propertyBefore considering a budget for services such as Outsourcing, Trademark or Patents even, I’d like to give you some pointers based on my experience of advising startups of all types over the last 15 years.

Businesses tend to change radically in the early years so that a few years after starting up, many look nothing like their initial manifestation.

Sometimes this can be because as they get market feedback on their concepts their ideas develop and they pivot. Or it may be that new businesses don’t know what it is exactly that they do, and who they do it for. Even professionals, like lawyers and web designers, who you would think know pretty clearly what they do, struggle with this.

Startups, therefore, take time to find their feet.

For this reason, I would counsel against spending too much money on anything, be it design, legal fees, or otherwise. As the business gradually achieves clarity about the demand for its goods and services, and figures out which services will generate revenue, and responds to the market, its offering and niche will change.

 

Early phase legal work

Early phase legal work can therefore often be of temporary benefit only.

Yet what happens in practice when a start up chooses lawyers is that a price is set for the various documents or services the lawyer considers the business needs. This might include a trade mark, terms of business, a website development agreement, documentation for the website, and anything else that is particularly appropriate for a given type of business.

The value a good lawyer can offer to startups goes far beyond the provision of documentation or a particular legal service.

It may be that you could save by using templates and do your own drafting to implement the necessary documents for your business.

One problem is how to get access to best practice intellectual property advice so as to start up your business and projects independently without need to consult lawyers about every decision you need to make as you pivot and change direction.

In fact, few businesses can afford to consult lawyers on the intellectual property issues that arise in the very early stages of their projects, such as when they’re choosing names or even when they’re commissioning websites. Either they don’t realise that so many of their actions have far reaching intellectual property implications, or it’s not feasible to incur legal fees when the project is in its infancy.

The mistake with IP is in assuming you can leave it to one side till later – such as once you have something to protect.  You need to know how to make good choices, what checks to make, and which provisions to include in legal agreements you should use early on.

Over the years Azrights has realised that this requires a different approach to that of consulting lawyers in the traditional lawyer/client one to one advisory service approach.

So, we’ve created a way to deliver early support to businesses so they may protect their IP using a PROCESS BASED system which we’ve developed. This is known as Legally Branded Academy 2.0 (LBA 2.0).

This enables people, even those with no pre-existing knowledge of intellectual property, to use the system to protect their IP. You learn what to do at the point in time when you need to learn it. It’s only when a key action is about to be undertaken in a project that there is a need to apply a given process.  You access and apply processes when you need them. There are different processes depending on the actions the business is about to take.

So, for example, if you have an innovation you want to patent, that’s when you would look at the processes for patents and understand what to do before approaching a lawyer for help. Or if you’re about to pick a name and domain name, that’s when you watch the videos on names and learn the numerous issues to be aware of.  Names are a much misunderstood topic, even by highly successful business leaders. There are many myths and misinformation about naming.

Indeed the need to choose a name so early on in projects leads to many mistakes by business owners, sometimes with devastating consequences for the business. This is just one example of how not having best practice advice, and information at your fingertips when you need it, can result in poor intellectual property outcomes for the business.

Intellectual property has a broad meaning. It includes the knowledge and skills that are to be deployed in the business or project, or which will be turned into a business. It is an umbrella term that includes:

  • patents,
  • trade marks,
  • designs,
  • copyright and
  • trade secrets/confidentiality.

Registration of rights, which people traditionally associate with intellectual property, comes later and often people will consult a lawyer at that time. However, by then it may already be too late to rectify the impact of some of the early decisions and choices they’ve made.

The best way I can help you is via a 6 week group coaching program that gives you access to LBA 2.0 and 6 Zoom meetings when I will explain how to use the LBA 2.0 system in your business as part of your processes, and you will have an opportunity to ask me questions. This is the lowest cost way we’ve been able to find for supporting startups. Thereafter you may buy consultation or different services such as trade mark registration. The system gives you a number of the templates you would need to use and these templates are made very easy to tailor. So, it’s only if the other party won’t sign the document that you’d need to consider consulting a lawyer for advice.

This new process-based approach to IP protection is THE way to protect your IP on an ongoing basis as your business grows and develops.

Here is a link to the Azrights International Ltd site which is not regulated by the solicitors regulation authority, and offers the course combined with coaching. You can put your name on the waiting list if the course is currently closed. It reopens every couple of months and you will get a discount by registering your interest and will be the first to find out when the next course starts.

The first step is to buy a licence for Legally Branded 2.0 and get some coaching. Then order more licences for your team and arrange consultancy services if required down the line.

Being in business myself means I understand the emotional, financial, and creative investment clients make in their own future. With my insight into legal risk, I am well placed to offer you this different approach to managing your legal risks and budget.

In conclusion, the traditional approach to organising your legal work might not result in the best deal for you. What we are all about at Azrights is providing cost effective and appropriate legal solutions to help you to grow your business on solid foundations.

When Does a Start Up Need to Register a Trademark?

Every time you create a product, service, or business, you need a brand identity for it. Without a doubt, the most important element of most brands is the name.

The law protects names through trademarks, not copyright.  

It is not possible to claim copyright in a name, even if the name is one you made up.

Start ups often wonder whether they need to spend the money to register a trademarkSome wonder why it’s not enough to have registered a company or domain name. Yet others have heard of unregistered trademark rights being acquired through use, and wonder why they should not just use the name without bothering with any trademark registrations.

Company and Domain name registrations are insufficient

The short answer to whether company or domain registrations are enough is no. Domain and company names do not give you the necessary rights you need in a name.  The fact that they are available to register does not mean you may use them for any purpose you like. You still need to establish whether anyone has trademark rights in the name you’re intending to use as your brand name. 

Trademark registration is the way to protect a name, and get the necessary rights you need in that nameIt is not a good idea to rely on unregistered trademark rights in the brand name in which you will be building your brand equity.  

What is a good name?

A good name will help you to build brand value and to successfully secure trademark registration in the word. But to pick a name that works involves more than meets the eye at first. 

As well as conveying the desired personality characteristics, sometimes across world markets and in multiple languages, it’s essential that the brand name be legally available and distinctive.

Often a name is the first issue you need to consider before beginning work on designs, websites, and marketing materials.

Should you register the name?

It all depends on how important the name is to you.  If you’ve found a name you are excited about and want to use long term for your business, then you should immediately register it as a trade mark, before you do anything else. That’s the way to establish ownership rights to a name.

If you are not that bothered whether you can use the name long term or not, then don’t worry about trademarking.  Once you’ve established that you are not infringing on anyone else’s rights, just go ahead and use the name.

Conclusion

So, when you’re starting a new business, pick any name based on whether your desired domain name is freely available to register. Don’t spend too much on getting an identity sorted for your business either. The focus should be on finding a suitable niche and positioning for your business and testing it.

You can have more than one niche, but best to move forward one niche at a time.

So, initially focus on getting the business off the ground.  If your business is viable and works, you can rebrand (by which I mean getting a visual identity in line with your brand values) once you’ve found your feet.

At that time, you could even pick a new name, so you can save if you’re willing to choose a temporary brand name to use as well as temporary designs in the early days. 

On the other hand, if you have coined a really inventive name, and like it, or don’t want to have the hassle of a rebranding exercise later, then, of course, you should invest in the name by properly protecting it with a trademark.