As more and more brands have traded in brick and mortar for e-commerce platforms to sell their goods, theft has become a major risk. For brands operating online, the greatest concern is not the theft of physical goods but that of their intellectual property (IP). Just like physical goods, the loss of your intellectual property can result in a loss of profits. This is particularly true for emerging or smaller brands, who depend on their logos, trademarks, designs, and other source identifiers to build their brand reputation and make a living. An online business's competitive advantage comes from and is built around its ideas, and its global reach and if these are not properly protected, they can be easily copycat or counterfeited—resulting in huge financial losses for the business.
The digital world has made it harder for brands to protect their intellectual property like their brand's assets, as elements of their brand have become more accessible to the global community. Brand assets are things like your brand fonts, packaging, sound, and color scheme. Once a specific element of your brand has gained secondary meaning and it helps your consumers to identify your brand, you have formed a brand asset. One of the best ways to protect those assets is by getting a trademark registered however there are other safety measures you can put in place. Before we dive into those, below are some examples of brand assets from some popular brands.
Name - Coco Chanel is considered a trademark name and it is used as a source identifier for the brand to distinguish their goods from other consumer goods in the marketplace. Building a brand reputation for quality craftsmanship and luxury.
Symbol- The McDonald golden arch is a classic example of a symbol trademark. Customers know that the arch represents Mcdonald's and has successfully differentiated them from other fast-food chains.
Packaging/Color- Tiffany maintains several trademarks and one of them includes their trade-dress registration on its distinctive blue boxes and the color known as Tiffany Blue. Tiffany packages its jewelry in special blue boxes, using a trademarked shade of light blue created by the company for its products.
Sound - A significant example of a registered sound trademark is the Looney Tunes theme song.
Below are some important steps to follow before you launch your brand online:
1. Registering your trademark is one of the best ways to keep it protected. This includes your brand name, logo, designs, slogans, and any words associated with your brand. In some cases, this can also include your packaging, sound, or color scheme.
2. Building a brand reputation and connecting your brand assets to your product or service gives it an extra layer of protection and may prevent copycats. So make sure your brand assets make it easy for consumers to quickly identify that the product or service belongs to you.
3. When you are working with a third party you should include an intellectual property clause in every contract to ensure you maintain the rights to your intellectual property. The same should be done on your website and detailed in your terms and conditions.
4. Monitor your IP, competitors, and the online presence of your brand to spot any imitators or potential users of your brand's IP. Be ahead of the game and stay aware of any potential intellectual property infringements.
5. If you plan on selling your services or products in other countries do your research to understand the intellectual property protection that country provides and the state of counterfeiting.
If you need further advice, please contact an attorney.