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.
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.
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.
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.
Before 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:
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.
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.
Copyright is a wide-ranging subject, and relevant to many creative and non-creative industries.
It is arguably the most universally relevant IP right, covering written materials, music, art, logos, and computer programs, to name a few. It protects most visual brand elements, such as logos, packaging, and websites, albeit it may also be possible to protect these by also registering some of them as designs or trademarks to secure added protection.
Copyright protects original expression, but not ideas themselves. So, if someone were to suggest an idea to you to execute, such as an unusual looking picture of a bird, or gave you an idea for a plot, you as the creator would own copyright in the picture or plot you produce,and the person who gave you the idea will have no rights to any share of it. So the person with ideas gets no copyright in the work created as a result of their ideas unless there is a legal agreement between the two parties that provides otherwise.
Can I copyright my name?
Some people ask to “copyright” their name.
People wonder whether copyright prevents them from using particular words for their product or business. Even newspapers and popular online publications make the basic mistake sometimes of reporting names as being copyrightable. In fact, names are not protected by the law of copyright. It is trademarks that protect names.
It was in a case in 1982 Exxon Corp, where it was decided that copyright does not protect names. The company unsuccessfully applied to stop Exxon Insurance Consultants calling themselves Exxon, arguing that it had copyright in the name as it had spent substantial amounts of money developing the name.
In a landmark decision, the UK Court of Appeal disagreed and took the view that it was not possible to have copyright in a name because a name is too brief. Regardless of how much investment or time is put into the creation of a name, no matter how clever it is, from a policy point of view the court decided to keep names outside the scope of copyright protection. Instead, names are protected by the law of trademarks.
Some famous examples of slogans which are also protected by trademarks are Nike’s Just Do It, and L’Oreal’sBecause you’re worth it.
What does this mean for you? Well, for names and slogans you need to turn to trademark law for guidance. While for other works, such as those outlined at the start of this piece as examples of copyright works, generally, all you need to do to own your work is to record it in some way (for example by writing it down, taking a photograph, or getting it on tape).
If you ask someone else to do work for you, for example, to develop a website, then you need a contract before you engage them, to give you the copyright, otherwise, they will own the rights in the site.
If an agency helps you to choose a brand name then unless you agree otherwise in the legal agreement between you, you will have exclusive rights to the name. They will have no claim to it.
It’s important to get an expert in trademark law to help you assess whether a name is legally effective and available. If it is, then registering it as a trademark is a sensible step to take so you own the rights to the name. This is important as you will be generating goodwill in the name.
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.
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.
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.
One way I’ve looked at the topic is to ask myself, if I were diagnosed with a terminal illness like Steve Jobs was, would I continue working, doing what I’m doing to the end or would I immediately want to stop work?
For me, the answer is that I would continue working to the end, as Steve Jobs did because I’ve gradually created a business that is engaged in solving a meaningful problem in the world, and I have a vision for how to do it.
It wasn’t always so.
If the answer for you indicates that you are probably not living your purpose, then continue to search for it by doing work that takes you closer to it and you too might gradually find your purpose as I’ve now found mine.
I’d been working towards it all these years and step by step I’ve now found it.
Those Who Always Knew Their Purpose Are Rare
There are those lucky ones in life who just know what their life purpose is from a young age, and they know the path to follow to achieve their purpose.
A friend of mine at law school had wanted to be a lawyer since she was 9, and she’s gone on to do great things as a lawyer.
I recently went to see the film On the Basis Of Sex based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg and clearly she was one of those lucky ones with a calling for the law. She also chose a husband who was similarly dedicated to the law.
I’m sad that I didn’t always know my life purpose, nor did I know how important it is to search for it till recently.
But at least I’ve gradually arrived at it, albeit relatively late in the day although now that I’ve found it, I feel sure that its effect will be quickly evident in my business.
Background Behind My Career Choice of Law
Choosing law as a profession was more a conscious choice than a calling for me. I wanted a professional qualification. My A level subjects narrowed the options to law or accountancy.
It would have been great to be able to choose architecture. That really appealed to me, but I lacked the Art and Maths A levels needed. The fact is though that I didn’t go back to school to get those subjects because it wasn’t that important to me to qualify as an architect.
So, that’s how I opted for law.
Over the years I often questioned whether the choice of career was the right one. Aspects of the job that didn’t appeal to me were being stuck in an office pouring over contract wording. The jobs I had in private practice involved too much of that, even though on the surface it seemed glamorous when I worked at Eversheds, an international law firm.
My in-house role at Reuters for 5 years was much more suited to my inclinations and interests, as there was more contact with the client, and I was exposed to the commercial side of life.
I had always had a vague idea of setting up my own business but a law firm business was just too daunting given my lack of experience of private practice.
During maternity leave I explored alternative career options, qualifying as a journalist. At one stage I even seriously considered setting up a Persian Ash food business.
However, I invariably gravitated back to law, and it was intellectual property law I chose to study as a Masters’ degree subject during the years I took out of the workplace to bring up my two daughters.
My father’s sudden death and the memory of his advice to set up my own law firm were the catalyst for taking the plunge and setting up what is now Azrights Solicitors.
Intellectual Property and Business Are Intertwined
Through the enquiries, I was receiving I soon discovered that people were making fundamental mistakes around IP. Sometimes there were devastating consequences for some of these businesses leading to insolvency even.
I liked how closely intertwined business and IP are, which hadn’t been apparent when working on the intellectual property needs of a large blue-chip business, like Reuters. At the small business level, I could see just how significant IP is in any business. Yet it struck me how often people were completely unaware of the IP dimension and made decisions which were not in their long-term interests.
Over time I’ve realised that the best way to address the problems small businesses have with intellectual property is to embed legal advice and best practice into processes that businesses of any size can follow whether they’re start-ups or established.
People simply need to adopt recommended processes, and then induct their team to follow them when implementing new ideas.
My experience indicates that the mistakes businesses make around intellectual property occur in the early stages of projects, before anyone would even consider consulting a lawyer. Yet it’s just too impractical to take legal advice early on during the life of new projects on all the details you need to know.
Most people would want to first test the water, perhaps even wait and see if the project has any legs before asking a lawyer for help to protect what they’ve created. Many will only think about protection if their project is a success.
However, with IP, a lot of “protection” happens in the early stages when you make choices. It’s as much about doing the right due diligences, signing the right documents, at the right time as it is about registering your rights. Hence why the right procedures are the way to protect IP, and I’m launching Legally Branded Academy 2.0 to enable everyone to protect their IP.
Aligning Branding With Intellectual Property
Over the years I have also gradually learned more about branding and its importance to business success.
One problem is that people assume branding is about getting pretty design work done, whereas the visual identity is the last thing to work on not the first. You just need some inexpensive designs initially while you test the market, and focus on designing the actual business itself rather than its visual appearance.
Another problem is that people don’t realise how vital it is to register their rights once they undergo branding. It’s essential to have a budget for both branding and IP protection because the whole point of branding is to stand out, and if you don’t stand out from an IP point of view then you don’t stand out as a business. And if you don’t protect the unique visual identity that’s designed for you, then you risk it becoming generic, undoing all the expensive branding work in the process.
Businesses tend to change radically in the early years. A few years after starting up, they may look nothing like their initial manifestation. This is because it’s common for new businesses to not know what it is exactly that they do, and who they do it for.
It can take time for start-ups to find their feet. The business needs to see how the market responds to its offerings, so its initial focus might well change.
As a business gradually achieves clarity about the demand for its goods and services, and figures out which services will generate revenue, it can better position itself in the market.
Education and a commitment to working on the business is what branding should involve in the early days. I’ve created a course, More Than Brand, to enable people to do this
Trademarks and IP, Business and Branding
Topics I deal with all the time like trademarks and naming are closely connected with branding so I found myself more and more engaged by the related topics of branding, business and the intellectual property dimension of law.
The combination of these subjects matter enormously to business success and are not necessarily particularly obvious or exciting to businesses so they can miss some important issues when they’re implementing new business ideas.
My purpose is to help businesses to succeed and have greater security by underpinning their business with intellectual property processes to protect their IP.
I want to revolutionise branding by partnering with branding agencies and business advisers to bring intellectual property into the mix. IP is often missed out in branding currently, and treated as something you can leave till later, when you come to protect your IP. However, that is incorrect because branding involves creating new IP and if you don’t consider IP you could end up with an inadequate brand.
Providing a multidisciplinary approach when branding a business is the key to ensuring that businesses undergoing branding increase their chances of success.
So, now I have this clarity about the purpose of the Azrights business, it will help when engaging team members because if their purpose as individuals aligns with that of the Azrights business we’ll have the right dynamic for a longer term relationship.
How to Work Out Your Purpose
So, to go back to purpose. Whether you’re looking for employment or are starting a new venture it’s vital to ask yourself some searching questions. What’s the motivation driving it?
Getting clarity on purpose is essential. As Steve Jobs put it, doing work you love is important. He said
You’ve got to find what you love . . . Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work”…..”the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
This question of fulfilment and purpose is an important one for all of us to think about whether we’re in business or working in careers.
If you’re starting a new venture, then are you aiming to make it big? Do you aspire to be the next Richard Branson or Anita Roddick? Or are you just intending to be self-employed? Certainly, when Ifounded my law firm, 15 years ago I just wanted to work flexibly around my two daughters so I could be there for them instead of handing over to a nanny to raise them.
Aspirations change over time. Certainly, mine have.
My ambition, and love of entrepreneurship were the catalyst to growing the Azrights business, and now with clarity around my purpose the Azrights business is set to make a far greater impact I hope.
Life is short and at the end of the day you’re going to ask yourself the question, or your children will wonder on your behalf, what was it all about, what were you up to during your short time on earth?
I believe that what we do can touch other people’s lives in ways we’ll never know. So, it’s not necessarily my own visible achievements that will ultimately matter the most. Who knows how others might be impacted or benefit from my existence or ideas?
We all want to dedicate ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves. Doing so contributes to our need for significance and meaning.
Purpose is innate to the human condition. If you’re doing work that gives your life meaning why ever stop?
That’s why the important thing for me is to continue contributing to the world. Far from wanting to retire, I want to continue working for as long as I am healthy and able to work. I hope that will be at a 100 years old.
When 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;
Does my trademark still cover all the goods and services the business offers?
Has my business expanded into other countries?
Are there any other names, slogans or logos which are now associated with my business?
Are there any domain names I should consider registering?
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.
In a world where there is more and more noise, it can be difficult to be heard. Many of us feel that despite producing awesome content, we’re just not getting through to anyone.
To capture anyone’s attention requires more than good content.
This is a topic I’ve decided to research and study closely so in future posts I’ll be sharing my findings and ideas for distributing our content so as to reach more people. Watch this space.
You’re Not Alone If You Feel That Your Marketing Isn’t Working
You’re in good company if you find that your marketing isn’t working any more.
Mark Schaefer, in his new book, Marketing Rebellion, observes that his Chief Marketing Officer friends who represent some of the biggest names in the business, without exception all feel they are falling behind… on everything
They say things are just not working like they used to.
These are some of the biggest marketing stars at the most famous brands.
They’re experienced, deeply respected executives with some of the biggest companies in the world. They have limitless resources, access to the best people, and premier agency partner relationships. And yet they echoed the same desperate sentiment that many small businesses, and entrepreneurs with little or no budget feel.
Nothing seems to work anymore.
Identifying Your Niche
The book has interesting insights which has sparked off ideas for my marketing. I’ll be sharing some information about that in the future.
For what I’m about to communicate, the part that stood out for me was Schaefer’s suggestion that for your marketing to stand a chance of working, you need to make sure you accurately identify your “place” – what you want to be known for.
He suggests to then define your space – which should be an uncontested niche to tell your story.
Once you’ve done that Schaefer explains how important it is to create effective content to convey your message and build an actionable audience. I’ll be working on these elements over the coming months.
It’s about much more than just generating good content.
Creating More Than Brand Online Course
When I recently created my new online course to help businesses position or reposition their brands, I was able to reposition the Azrights business in the process.
At the time I hadn’t read Schaefer’s book.
My “place” – what I want Azrights and myself to be known for – is branding and trade marks, branding and copyright, branding and intellectual property, as opposed to just trademarks, or copyright or intellectual property legal protection.
Copyright, Trademarks, Intellectual Property
As an intellectual property law firm Azrights is currently positioned to deal with the legal side of branding – trademarking, copyright, and intellectual property. But it hasn’t previously provided branding services. Now, due to our repositioning, it does provide branding services.
So, we’ll be making various changes to the website so that in future it is quite clear to site visitors that Azrights also offers branding.
Drawing on my 15+ years of running a business I am well placed to support businesses with their branding. I have studied marketing mainly because it totally absorbs me as a subject. I read lots of marketing books, attend many marketing and social media related courses, and so, it’s a subject I feel comfortable helping clients with.
My next book will be on branding.
What Branding Isn’t
Unfortunately, there is a widespread misconception that branding is all about a logo or visual identity work.
I’ve experienced branding of that type first hand on two occasions, both in my own businesses (twice), and when supporting branding projects helping agencies with name clearance or advising on other aspects of intellectual property.
The first experience I had personally with branding didn’t work out so well because I hadn’t thought through my brand for myself first before approaching designers. The second experience worked mainly because I’d done all the business thinking beforehand for myself.
Branding services combined with IP
The fact that I will be able to combine branding with intellectual property is what brings real value to the niche Azrights will henceforth occupy.
The disciplines of branding and intellectual property are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. Yet intellectual property is not well understood by the branding industry as a whole.
Problems When Branding And IP Are Not Aligned
I see many problems when branding is divorced from intellectual property. The person who loses out when branding and intellectual property are not aligned is the business owner, and often they’re quite unaware that their identity is the root cause of the problem.
When certain issues arise in their business, such as a competitor muscling in on their turf, they don’t realise that the name they’re using is the reason they are vulnerable and unable to fight back to stave off the unfair competition.
Separating the two disciplines doesn’t generally give the best results
Bedding in New Positioning for Azrights
Once this positioning is bedded into the Azrights business and our website, it means Azrights will occupy a unique place.
It will be the first law firm that offers branding services to its clients in addition to intellectual property protection. Azrights will deliver some of the branding services through its sister company Azrights International Ltd.
Reason for Repositioning
When I initially set up Azrights back in 2005, intellectual property law firms were few and far between. So, IP was a good niche positioning for my firm to adopt.
At the time, in 2005, solicitors tended to handle litigious matters, copyright, and IP strategy while patent and trade mark attorney firms dealt with the registration of trade marks, designs, and patents.
I was being different in offering the A to Z of IP services – a full registration and litigation service as well as drafting of legal agreements.
However, this positioning soon looked run of the mill as the division between the two professions began to break down. Patent and trade mark firms soon began offering litigation work, while law firms delved into trade mark registration work.
Dozens of Other IP Firms
So, one reason the IP niche needed to change was this. A few years after Azrights was founded, dozens of intellectual property law firms began sprouting up, virtually overnight. Most of them now handle registration work and while IP was still a specialist subject back in 2005, it’s increasingly ceased to be niche.
The subject is now quite mainstream as non-specialist law firms, such as company commercial lawyers offer intellectual property work, including trade mark registration.
So, I could see the writing on the wall. It was time to make a change to our niche positioning.
The decision to encompass branding within our niche made complete sense from many perspectives.
Why Include Branding Services?
While the traditional path for law firms is to offer the full range of legal services as they expand and grow, the most important consideration for me was my own interests.
I’ve always wanted to do more than just legal work. That’s why I became an in-house lawyer at Reuters. I wanted to be involved in the commercial side of life, to advise on more than just law.
The branding industry currently comprises a plethora of design related companies essentially offering visual design identity work.
Some of them delve into the business side, but essentially the problem they have is that they are running too tight timescales and therefore their clients don’t have all the time they may need in order to properly think through the business issues that arise from the branding exercise.
So, there is a high risk of simply ending up with pretty designs, as I found to my cost after my first branding exercise.
Need for More Education
So, I believe that what is needed is more branding educational providers to help businesses to properly think through their branding before turning to designers for their visual identity work.
The current branding landscape is dominated by designers. And there are many law firms who offer intellectual property services to support branding agencies.
However, none of them is helping businesses with branding support. So, nobody currently occupies the position of offering branding along with trademarks, or branding along with copyright, or branding as well as intellectual property advice and protection – until now.
That is the position Azrights will occupy
As mentioned the two disciplines are intricately intertwined in a way that perhaps branding professionals who do not work with intellectual property law are sufficiently aware.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so common to see brand identities based around descriptive names that are incapable of being uniquely owned. Nor would it be so common to see brands that are unprotected because the branding agency didn’t discuss legal protection when quoting for the work.
Why descriptive names are a problem
Any name may be registered with a logo, and many are. However, that doesn’t give the client any protection over the name if the name is too descriptive to function as a trade mark.
When a name can’t be uniquely owned, the client can experience a number of problems.
Every business must use a name that can function as a trade mark (that is a word mark) because having unique rights to a name is what enables the business to protect its revenues.
It always saddens me when a client comes to us because a “me too” competitor has muscled in on their turf. If the client has a descriptive name then there is little they can do to prevent the competitor stealing their market share.
A passing off action against a competitor who is using the same generic name as you would be throwing good money after bad, although I have seen many law firms take on such cases.
If you can’t uniquely own your brand name then you’re extremely vulnerable.
Branding and Intellectual Property Are Connected
Branding and intellectual property thinking need to go hand in hand. It’s no good creating the brand and then leaving the client to seek out lawyers to help them protect it.
By offering both branding and intellectual property insights, I can help clients in a unique way. Firstly, to identify a suitable niche, then to get their brand strategy and name sorted and once all that is clear, that’s when design services would be appropriate – an area that Azrights has no intention currently to occupy.
I am looking into using designers, developers and social media marketers that belong to reputable bodies who have codes of conduct to protect consumers. Or we may create our own code of conduct as well.
Mistakes people make
I see many mistakes around branding that I myself made when I first set up in business, such as paying far too much for “branding” which ultimately just consisted of some pretty designs.
I didn’t know enough about business at the time, and effectively abdicated responsibility for branding my business to a graphic design agency simply because I didn’t realise that branding was about much more than visual design work.
Much of the thinking about branding needs to come from the business owner, and these things take time. So, new businesses should avoid spending large sums of money on the logo and other designs until they’re clear about their business brand strategy. Conclusion
It’s essential to have access to a deep understanding of both intellectual property and business when you’re creating or fine-tuning your brand.
Protecting your ideas and IP as you develop your positioning, name, tagline line and business plan is what branding involves. Therefore, these are best dealt with together before seeking help with visual identity work.
This is the new Azrights niche. You’ll find plenty of Intellectual Property law firms and plenty of branding agencies, but nothing that combines branding with trademarks, branding with copyright, or branding with IP. Yet these belong together.
I feel strongly about this subject because it’s important to me to impact, inspire clients and teach clients what is involved to brand themselves so they can make their positive contribution to the world.
I have just launched a new online course called More Than Brand. It will help you get clarity on how to position your business in the market and protect your distinctiveness.
How does understanding the limitations of IP help you become commercially savvy? Indeed, IP needs to be considered carefully when creating, growing or preparing a business for an exit. What are the things we need to know and understand?
How Google built itself into one of the world’s largest brands
The IP limitations and why it’s important to know and understand them
Examples of businesses that spawned copycats
How venture capitalists make money by exploiting these IP limitations
The repercussions of becoming too successful with your IP
The elements of a business model that might be protected
Other intellectual property rights beyond the big four of copyright, trade marks, patents, and registered designs
How, when and whether you should release your know-how and ideas
Any business with ambition to grow should make it a priority to understand how intellectual property rights affect it.
Intellectual property rights don’t protect ideas; instead, they protect the particular expression of an idea.
It’s impossible for anyone to keep a profitable niche to themselves, nor is it possible to patent a business format so as to keep a format to yourself.
Intellectual property rights are primarily limited by geography.
The fact that IP protection has its limits should not be used as an excuse for not securing any IP protection at all.
Increase the protection of your business by holding a wide portfolio of IP.
Give your business or product a name that’s distinctive enough to qualify for trade mark protection.
Secure the copyright over your materials.
Register the design of something like your logo.
Actively police your intellectual property rights.
Always put in place appropriate contracts.
Be smart about how, when and whether to release your know-how and ideas.
“We live in a world where the prevailing philosophy is to publish and spread your ideas to profit from them. Unfortunately, by sharing your ideas you increase the risk of giving competitors a chance to pinch your ideas, business model or product offerings for themselves.”
“Simply by securing IP rights, you may deter copycat-ism because savvy business people will take note of your rights, rather than infringe them. So the common myth that it’s not worth securing IP rights if you can’t afford to go to court to defend them is misguided.”
Thank you for listening!
If you haven’t already taken the time to fully understand IP, I highly recommend that you sign up to the Legally Branded Academy Course. It’s not expensive and it’s a business course suitable for a worldwide audience.
Connect with me on your preferred social media platform. And if you’ve learned from this series of podcasts, do consider leaving a review.
How to be prepared and make the correct moves to protect your intellectual property position
The media is abuzz with talk and comment on the ramifications Brexit will have on commerce. Much relates to transport, travel and currency with the impact this will have on the marketplace. A vital area, not to be overlooked, is the effect Brexit will have on intellectual property rights, such as trademarks, from a business perspective. It is important for businesses, including small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to have some understanding, and strategy, that copes with the certainty, and uncertainty associated with its consequences.
There are a series of headings that need to be reviewed apart from trademarks so that the many businesses that rely on other types of intellectual property can prepare themselves. The main elements that SMEs may encounter are:
Any person or company holding an EU Trademark (EUTM) must review its position in light of the UK exit. It may lose its protection in that market and may have to reapply. Of course, the UK government might agree to some arrangement whereby existing rights will automatically transfer, with or without the payment of a fee, but that’s by no means a certainty.
One aspect of this relates to the “use” requirement for trademark protection. It has been the practice that, if a mark was used in, say, the UK and Ireland, that this should constitute sufficient use to enjoy protection in all member states. When the UK leaves the EU, a business may have insufficient use of its EUTM elsewhere in the EU to meet the threshold requirement. In such a case EU-wide protection could be lost.
Registered Community Design:
Like the EUTM, a Registered Community Design (RCD) provides design protection across the EU. That which can be protected is very wide-ranging indeed. It includes furniture, bicycles, chocolates and, for example, decoration applied to such items or clothing and fashion items. After the UK leaves the EU, however, the RCD will no longer be enforceable in the UK. If an SME designs and markets any product – from high fashion to bathroom fittings – it will need to know how to protect the designs in the UK post-Brexit.
Domain names: .eu designation
If you are a corporate owner of .eu domain names, you need to review your domain name portfolio to ensure it is Brexit-proof. After the UK leaves the EU, it is not clear whether a UK entity will still be permitted to own a .eu domain name. Busineses and companies with .eu domain names will need to identify such domain names in their portfolio and decide whether it will be necessary to transfer ownership into an entity placed within the EEA.
While the effect of Brexit on contracts generally is likely to be dealt with in the UK/EU Brexit agreement(s), in the context of IP, SMEs will need to know what effect Brexit will have on IP licences and agreements. For example, will a trademark licence for “the territory of the EU” include the UK after Brexit? If a settlement agreement with a competitor provides that they agree not to use brand X in the EU, will they be permitted to use it in the UK post-Brexit? It will also be important to ensure that any agreements or licences which are negotiated in the period leading up to March 2019 properly address the effect of the UK’s departure from the EU to minimize trading uncertainty.
Geographical Indications and Appellations of Origin
These terms relate to the geographic location used to designate the goods or services which originate from a particular region or place. Champagne must come from that region in France while Feta cheese must come from Greece. It is not yet clear what effect Brexit is going to have on the extensive scheme of EU protections for geographical indications, which include Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications. Although some of these EU schemes are open to non-EU applicants, the “home” country must provide reciprocal recognition (we will protect your name if you protect ours). In the absence of mutual recognition, food producers could face competition from cheaper versions of protected names. That said, the law of passing off will still be available post-Brexit and the UK Courts are extremely unlikely to allow SMEs to use famous names like champagne or Feta in the UK after Brexit.
While Brexit presents a particular level of uncertainty in respect to some aspects of patent law, others remain unchanged. Indeed, the good news for inventors seeking to protect their inventions in Europe, is that they may not need to adjust their filing strategies because of Brexit. Even after the UK leaves the EU, it will still be possible for inventors to obtain protection for their inventions in the UK by filing patent applications directly at the UK Intellectual Property Office. Because these patent applications (and eventual patents) are governed by UK national patent law, Brexit will have no effect on UK patents granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office.
Similarly, inventors will still be able to obtain protection for their inventions in other European countries by filing European Patent Applications at the European Patent Office, because the European Patent Convention (EPC) is not a piece of EU legislation and will be unaffected when the UK leaves the EU. Existing European patents covering the UK are also unaffected by the Brexit decision.
There has been a huge increase in the number of UK trademark filings. For example, UK trademark filings by US applicants have jumped by over 150%, filings from China by over 175% and filings from Canada by about 100%.
Clearly, businesses are taking action now to protect their intellectual property (IP) rights rather than awaiting the outcome of the divorce talks between the remaining EU states and the UK. Many are pro-actively ‘Brexit-proofing’ their IP rights.
Although it is hoped that the divorce settlement will make provision for the re-registration of European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs) and of Registered Community Designs (RCDs) before the UKIPO, if the UK and EU were to fail to reach agreement all EUTMs and all RCDs would simply cease to have effect in the UK after 29 March 2019 (the day that the UK will leave the EU).
The potential loss of enforcement of your EUTMs or RCDs in the UK may have very serious consequences, so it may be an idea to review your position sooner rather than later. The authors, Shireen Smith and Kieran Heneghan would be delighted to assist you with this.