“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”Steve Forbes
Written by: Michelle Browning Coughlin
While Steve Forbes, editor of Forbes magazine, was not living through the challenges of the past two years when he said these words, the importance of investment in your company’s brand remains critical. Moreover, the pandemic may have led businesses to change their products or introduce new ones, alter the way they deliver services or add new services, and revamp their marketing strategies. Each of these can have an impact on the overall brand strategy.
As we begin 2022 with hopes of a more “normal” year, perhaps now is a good time to step back, catch our breath, and reflect on the larger picture of the business, including its brand and other key intellectual property (“IP”) assets. For most businesses, the brand and other IP assets are truly the lifeblood of the business and where the core business value resides. Here are three key resolutions to help “AIM” the business for success in 2022
Assess your current IP asset protection. Determine whether your trademark, trade dress, and copyright assets are all appropriately registered and cover all your products and services. Assess whether all your key inventions, business methods and systems, and other valuable confidential business information assets (especially new ones) are appropriately protected by patents or strong trade secret policies, procedures, and agreements. Also, consider whether the brand is still accurately telling the story of the business in 2022 or if the brand, and the protection of the brand, needs a bit of “re-writing.”
Inspect the current uses of the business IP assets on the company website, in marketing materials, and on social medial. As a business grows and evolves, the use of IP assets, particularly trademarks, can also change. Sometimes a business updates its logo or packaging design or adds a new slogan. Perhaps, a trademark or service mark (“mark”) was originally used with only one product or service, but now is associated with additional offerings. Growing businesses may expand into new markets, including international markets, which may necessitate new or additional IP protection. In that case, new registrations for the mark might be beneficial. Additionally, it is important to review the use of your marks and copyrights to ensure that they are used correctly and with the proper marking (TM/SM, ®, or ©). This can help put others on notice that these are assets that the business values.
In addition to inspecting its own use of its brand assets, a business should also be vigilant in monitoring for third-party uses of identical or very similar brand assets. IP registrations are sometimes described as a sword, not a shield, meaning that the registrations are a tool to protect the brand, but they do not prevent a brand from being infringed. Setting up a Google alert is a free way to monitor some aspects of your brand. Additionally, we can help clients set up “watch services,” which are generally very reasonably priced automated services that monitor the United States trademark register, domain names, or other uses of your trademark, which can help alert the business to potentially unauthorized uses that may harm the brand. And, monitoring mentions of the brand by social media influencers and any authorized licensees is key to keeping the brand reputable and its value strong. Businesses should also pay close attention to how they or their digital marketing teams are deploying the business’ IP assets and any messaging relating to competitors (even just the selection of keywords can be problematic), making claims about their own or others’ products or services, and using of photos and imagery including on social media sites such as Instagram. Sometimes clients and marketers have the best of intentions, but can end up in difficult situations when they do not pay close attention to the legal “rules of the road” when it comes to marketing and advertising.
Periodic reviews of your company’s brand and other IP assets are important to the continued growth of the company, the connection of your consumers to the products or services, and to the overall value of your company. In 2022, make a resolution to “AIM” for enhanced protection of your brand and other valuable IP assets.