How To Properly Protect Your Brand In 2019
If you run a business, you need to protect your brand — find out how to protect your brand in 2019 in this post.
Every business needs to protect its brand and intellectual property. There are many parties that would take advantage of your ideas and try to use them without authorization for their own gain.
Luckily, just about every country has a legal process that can help you protect your brand from those who would profit from it. These processes are called trademarks and copyrights. If you want to keep your intellectual property safe, you need to dedicate some of your time and effort towards protecting it with the help of trademarks. Here are some steps you can take to bring you closer to that goal.
1. Waste no time
The proper time to start protecting your brand is right now.
Any second of time that you waste is the time that could lead to the invalidation of your idea in one of two ways. In today’s dynamic business world, people are constantly scrambling to come up with the next big thing. Who can guarantee that your idea or products aren’t being thought up by someone else while you’re reading this article?
Worse yet, someone could try to steal your idea from under your nose. No sensitive brand information is truly safe until it has been put under legal protection. Leaks happen all the time, even when the most powerful companies in the world try to prevent them.
Legal protections such as trademarks and copyrights take a while to be realized and they have some requirements before they can be fulfilled. However, this doesn’t mean that your ideas are vulnerable during their development stages. They are still offered at least some protections by your local laws, but you need to make sure that they apply in your case.
The main thing you have to focus on is not wasting any time. No matter what stage of the trademarking process you’ve reached, you need to act fast in progressing your protections. The moment you have a coherent idea that is worth registering, you should immediately get to work on protecting it in every possible way.
2. Watch the competition
You probably don’t have to worry about everyday Joes trying to steal your ideas.
There are reasons why you don’t see average people creating bootleg versions of products out of their own homes. Instead, what you should be looking out for is shady behavior from your competitors. Someone that has the infrastructure to carry out your ideas is the only credible threat to your creative work. If they get their hands on your product and its design, why wouldn’t they try to copy it for their own profit?
If you’ve done the necessary steps to trademark your brand and products, you probably don’t have to worry. However, the process of actually enforcing your trademark isn’t done automatically. Someone has to notice that your product is being ripped off by someone else. If there are no eyes on your competition, how could you know whether or not they’re infringing on your trademarked products or services?
Checking in with your competition has a lot of other benefits as well. Other than the pressing matter of protecting your IP, you can take the high road and simply try to find inspiration in their work. Ripping other businesses off is wrong, but there’s no law saying you can’t find inspiration that leads to tangentially related ideas.
3. Cover online bases
The internet is a crucial part of dealing with any kind of business. Your website is an extremely useful tool for your clients to contact you and inquire about your products. If your business deals in selling products, the website could be one of your most important assets. Online real estate is something you need to protect as much as you would actual real estate.
The process of acquiring a domain name isn’t all that difficult. You’ve probably gone through the process a couple of times while setting up your own website. With this in mind, you can imagine how easy it would be for someone to create a mock-up version of your brand’s website. This can be done by competitors, individuals, and scammers alike.
Your competitors are especially liable to stealing similar domain names. As your business grows, you probably want to cover all of your bases and purchase variations on your own domain. This includes misspellings of the website and any .com and .net versions that you can come across. It’s easy for the competition to swoop in and take them if you haven’t done so first. If this were to happen, it would be very easy for them to hike up the price if you inquire for purchasing them. They have no obligation to sell it to anyone, which means that they can ask for a hefty fee. Since you want to make sure customers find the right website every time, you might take them up on the offer. To avoid this issue, try getting all the domain names the moment you start your first website. It’s going to save you a lot of potential headaches in future dealings.
There are lots of scammers that might try to imitate your business online in order to steal credit card info from clients. This is not only bad for your business, but it’s also horrible for your reputation as a brand. Imagine the discontent clients would feel if a similar website that isn’t owned by your business were to scam them of their money. If competitors don’t have this problem, they will know where to go next. The good news is that this issue is relatively easy to solve. Search engines frown upon these types of scams and they will gladly shut them down and sell you the domain names as per usual.
4. File for a trademark
The most important step you can take to ensure the safety of your brand is to trademark your business.
The process will help you better defend your brand and trademarked products from those that might want to mooch off of your ideas. A trademark will help you better represent your business and mark your market territory in an official way.
Applying for a trademark is a lengthy legal process that requires some outside assistance. Legal experts aren’t an absolute necessity, but you would be remiss to deny yourself a way to make the process go smoothly. Trademark lawyers can be a world of assistance in every step of the trademarking process. If you want to protect your IP properly, you should definitely lawyer up.
The actual trademark process requires some forethought and planning. In order to prove that your idea is truly original and that it warrants a trademark, you need to check for anything similar that people might have come up with. Conduct a legal trademark clearance search with the assistance of your Actuate IP legal counsel in order to have definitive proof that your idea is worth registering in the database.
Paperwork isn’t the only thing you have to keep in mind when filing for a trademark. The patent and trademarking office isn’t satisfied with ideas alone. If it were, it would be easy for people to endlessly brainstorm and trademark any little thing that comes to them. Extorting businesses would become a piece of cake. Instead, the trademark offices require proof that you intend to actually use your idea within a reasonable timeframe. Sometimes, they will want an example of a prototype of your service or product, while other times they will give you a deadline to realize the trademark. This deadline is usually six months, but there are ways to delay it if you show initiative in the development of your ideas.
5. Take legal action
When an individual or business infringe on your ideas, you have to take action. It’s not just that you don’t want other people to make money off of your creativity and take away your customers. There are a lot more legal issues that can surround trademark infringement. In some places, you must enforce your trademark and copyright for fear of losing it.
What if your idea is only in its infancy and you haven’t anticipated someone stealing it this early? Even if you haven’t gone through the legal hoops to file for a trademark, there are still some legal protections that can be offered to your ideas. You can easily argue common law to prevent others from making use of your brand and its products. As long as you’re able to prove that it was originally your idea, you should be in the clear. Just keep in mind that something that is actually covered by a trademark is much easier to protect from a legal standpoint. You don’t anticipate thievery, so you might not have enough proof to satisfy a court.
If you find out that a company has infringed on your trademark, you should immediately send them a cease and desist letter. Demand that they stop using it before you decide to take legal action. Even if you’re right, rushing to a courtroom could cost you a lot of money and you don’t want to spend your funds on something that isn’t necessary.
Contact your legal counsel and hope that the cease and desist letter will do its job. If not and they keep infringing on your copyright, it might be time to make use of your legal team and go after them. With a well-established trademark, the process should go smoothly and you can get some fine compensation from the ordeal.
Keeping your brand and ideas safe is a tough task that requires your funds and attention. If you take the necessary steps to file for a trademark and protect it from those who would infringe on it, you can count on your brand staying safe and profitable.