Trademark registration is important for business growth and brand protection. And just about every business – big and small – have at least one trademark to their name. Apple, Mercedes, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and literally all popular brand names are protected with trademarks.
However, these brands didn’t have to rush. Coca-Cola was invented 1886 but the Coca-Cola Company and the trademark where only registered 6 years later in 1892. Markets were relatively slow at that time and so were copyists. Nowadays, if you wait six years to get your brand name registered, copyists and free-riders will have ruined your business by means of plagiarism.
Hence, building a business, awaiting its success and then planning the trademark registration does no longer seem a doable routine. Actually, without a registered trademark, you exclude your project from most investor fundings and might get stuck in the building phase. (we should put a link to a “investors love brands”-blog here).
If there is one thing that has not changed in the past hundred years, then it is the long time it takes to get a trademark registered. Nowadays, most government services have greatly increased in speed. In many jurisdictions, company registrations are a matter of hours or days. Sadly, that does not apply to trademarks. In 1892, Coca-Cola took somewhat over 8 months to get their trademark registered. Starbucks needed 25 months to get their trademark registered in 1976 and UBER even failed with its initial attempt for UBERCAR in 2011.
Hence, we recommend the following strategy:
Prioritize trademark registration. Get yourself a free trademark consultation today.
Be aware of the opportunities a mindfully selected trademark has to offer. You may still consider the name of your daughter – especially if it’s as beautiful as Mercédès – but check if it really is the best option for your business before you start to register it.
Be sustainable. Often, brand names are created out of the gut in a quick brainstorming. That’s great. Creativity is the root of success. Yet, it has to be followed by research and analysis. You want your trademark to last for hundred years, like Coca-Cola. And luckily, today, we can look back to all the old marks and see what failed and what succeeded.
In short: if there is one golden rule that applies to all trademarks it is that early planning is the key step to successful trademark registration and brand building. Here’s how you can plan ahead for your trademark.
1) Don’t limit yourself
Brand names often limit businesses, especially in regards to international expansion and their core business focus. This is why you need to think carefully about the subliminal messages your brand is sending to consumers.
Let’s say that in a few years time you want to expand your business in a different country. Although this is great, imagine what would happen if your name is difficult to translate or is offensive in the target language? You will most likely have difficulty registering your mark in that country or even using your mark in general.
For instance, when the brand “Vicks” expanded into Germany, they had trouble using their original name because it’s a slang term for brothel. Instead the brand changed their name to “Wick” in Germany and German-speaking countries to avoid negative connotations. You can
avoid this type of blunder with a simple language check. It’s much cheaper than rebranding – and saves you a lot of unnecessary headaches in the future.
Another limitation your brand name can have is on your core business focus. For example, PayPal are famous for their payment services but their name doesn’t really allow them to add other services to their business, like selling music or computers. It would be strange for them to do so. This is because their name limits this possibility. In contrast, Apple has been able to expand from computers to music and now offers payments. Apple will never experience a limitation because their name has nothing to do with the type of products they sell. Hence, they can continuously add to their brand’s product inventory.
Therefore, you need to consider any limitations your brand name has and reflect on how it will affect your business processes now and in the future. Take your time and mindfully think about how your name translates into other languages and consider whether the name limits you to producing and selling one type of product only.
Our team of consultants will be happy to guide you through this and stand by your side. Contact us today for a free consultation.
2) Be creative! Be unique! Be mindful! Be sustainable!
Sustainability will massively gain on importance over the next years. There has been a time when many major brands redesigned their logos. Basically whenever a new manager was appointed he created a new logo. Young, fresh, dynamic. Becoming attractive for new, young consumers. What happened: the loyal consumers wouldn’t recognize the new design and subconsciously started an entirely new search for a brand to trust. It took some years of learning but nowadays companies stick with the logos they have. So, plan your trademarks to last. Plan to keep them as long as The Coca-Cola Company.
3) Determine if Your Mark Is Registerable
In order for your mark to qualify for trademark registration it must:
3.1) Be distinctive or unique.
Marks are considered distinctive or unique when consumers can easily distinguish the goods and services of one business from another. Marks can be inherently distinctive, which means they have a made up or coined name, like Kodak. Or they can have acquired distinctiveness, like International Business Machines (IBM). Acquired distinctiveness means the mark has gained secondary meaning in the industry using a descriptive term. However, what worked for IBM in the pre-internet-world bears significant risks in our fast pace economy. Whilst waiting several years for your name to gain secondary meaning, copyists may appear and damage your brand reputation. Hence, if you have not already gained secondary meaning by now, it’s not a recommendable direction.
3.2) Do not be descriptive
“Cool & Creamy” for an ice cream, “Best Burgers” for a restaurant of “The Coffee House” for a coffee shop are all be considered descriptive expressions and, hence, do not qualify for registration. bikeparts.com is a great domain name, but it clearly is descriptive. Besides, whenever a customer enters just “bikeparts” into the browser bar, he will get a neat list of all the competitors.
To avoid rejection from the trademark office, it’s a good idea to have your name analyzed by trademark experts, run your mark through the international trademark database, and act on any slip-ups accordingly.
4) Ask for Professional Advice
If this is the first time you are registering a trademark, ask yourself:
Do you want to invest several weeks into a topic you’re unfamiliar with and that you only need once in your life? Or do you want to invest that time into something you’re experienced with? Like bringing forward your project or earning money.
Are you honest to yourself? Will you be searching for obstacles or will you be searching for proof that your trademark is great and perfect? Fun fact: you will find what you are looking for and most humans fall prey to this bias. So, can you be sure that your research will provide you with objective results?
If you want to ensure your trademark is the best match for your project, get some professional help. We offer a free initial consultation, explaining where to put your focus on, what to consider and what pitfalls to avoid. We also offer an unmatched range of services to help your trademark grow from an idea to a concept to a registered trademark and finally to a sustainable, successful brand.