5 most frequently asked questions about trade marks
We answer five key questions about trade marks.
Intellectual property rights are an important asset to businesses of all sizes from start-ups to multinational corporations. It is important to remember that many intellectual property rights can only be obtained by applying to register the right.
Here we present five reasons why companies should obtain intellectual property.
Generally, registered intellectual property rights work on a “first to file” basis (i.e. the rights to an invention, brand or product belong to whoever files the first application). By protecting intellectual property in the countries which are of importance to your business, you can prevent others from obtaining rights which could obstruct your activities.
In the case of trade marks, failure to be the first to protect your brand could lead you to have to change your brand name in a particular country or countries. If this happens, you will lose whatever investment you have already placed in promoting your brand.
In the case of inventions or designs, failure to be the first to protect the idea could lead to entire product ranges being scrapped, if a third-party files first, with no way of re-launching the same technology or product.
It is therefore important to protect your intellectual property rights widely (in as many countries as possible) and as early as possible.
Intellectual property rights are a valuable legal and financial asset to a business and can be sold like any other form of property. A well-managed intellectual property portfolio can be used as collateral when attempting to finance a business and can be attractive to investors. Businesses that robustly protect their intellectual property are often seen as more reliable and trustworthy.
Businesses that own intellectual property can also licence their rights to other companies in exchange for a fee. The licencing business model can be used by companies of all sizes and can be very profitable. Licensing allows you to expand your business while maintaining control over your brand and products.
Unlike most forms of property, the value of intellectual property rights are directly tied to the value of your business. While a building or consignment of goods have a fixed value which is likely to decrease over time due to depreciation, repair, maintenance and storage costs, intellectual property rights will increase in value over time as your business grows and becomes more successful.
Although it’s an intangible asset, intellectual property can be far more valuable than any physical asset owned by your business.
Registering intellectual property rights creates certainty as once a right is registered there is an element of certainty over who owns a brand, design or invention. Intellectual property rights are unique insofar as they give you a monopoly right to use a specific brand, design or invention. In the case of trade marks, a registered trade mark gives the owner the right to prevent the use of any identical or similar brand in respect of identical or similar products or services.
The certainty over the ownership of a brand, design or invention is often enough to deter competitors from copying them. In addition, owners of intellectual property rights can use symbols such as the registered trade mark symbol ®, the copyright symbol © or patent markings to indicate that their products are protected by intellectual property rights. These symbols and markings should only be used if you have obtained intellectual property rights and are useful tools to educate the public and dissuade ‘would be’ infringers. Much in the same way as how a fence round your house is often sufficient to dissuade a ‘would be’ burglar.
Finally, and perhaps the most important reason to obtain intellectual property rights is that they can be used to stop competitors from copying your brand, products and inventions.
Intellectual property rights give their owners the ability to sue for infringement where a third party has encroached upon their rights. An infringement claim provides a number of remedies to the owner of an intellectual property right, including the right to prevent further infringing acts (an injunction), the right to claim damages or in some cases the right to claim any profits made as a result of the infringement.
While infringement proceedings are often seen as a last resort they are an important weapon in the arsenal of any successful business.
At Wilson Gunn, we help businesses to protect their valuable intellectual property. For further information about obtaining intellectual property, please get in touch to speak to one of our attorneys.