22/07/2010 - 00:00

Local businesses exposing themselves

22/07/2010 - 00:00

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A WESTERN Australian intellectual property lawyer has warned that almost half of the brands belonging to the state’s top 100 companies are unprotected and vulnerable.

Local businesses exposing themselves

A WESTERN Australian intellectual property lawyer has warned that almost half of the brands belonging to the state’s top 100 companies are unprotected and vulnerable.

And this lack of protection exists despite the majority of these well-to-do companies collectively shelling out billions of dollars developing their brands in the first place and then spending billions more promoting their brands in their relevant markets.

‘Naked brands’ is the term used by Freehills partner and head of technology and IP practice, Tony Joyner, to describe the misalignment between brand creation and brand protection.

Mr Joyner and his team of IP lawyers at Freehills spent several months conducting research into companies that look after their brands and have good registered trademark portfolios.

“The phenomenon of companies spending a lot of money and effort creating a brand, and then spending a lot of money and effort marketing and advertising the brand, but not really valuing or appreciating or looking after the brand interested us,” Mr Joyner said.

The research, he said, clearly indicated a disconnect between what companies spent on creating and promoting their brands and how they valued, managed and protected their brands.

“That struck us as odd because when you go to the trouble and expense of getting something that is just right, and then hitching your corporate reputation to it and putting it out there, why wouldn’t you look after it?” Mr Joyner said.

He explained that, with data from the Department of Culture and the Arts, the research initially compared how much WA organisations spent on creating brands with how much they spent on protecting brands.

“We know that WA companies are spending a lot of money creating brands, about $1.3 billion in 2008,” Mr Joyner told WA Business News.

“We also know that WA companies are spending a lot promoting their brands, about $1.1 billion in 2008.”

He highlighted the benefits of trademark registration as a relatively simple and inexpensive method for WA companies to protect their brands, although it seemed not many WA outfits had been listening.

“We estimated, based on the number of applications being lodged, that the amount WA companies spend on trademark registration in WA each year is about $1.8 million,” Mr Joyner said.

“I am not suggesting that people should spend on protection what they spend on creation and promotion, but it would be hard to say that WA companies are spending too much on it.”

The next phase of his research investigated what percentage of the top 100 WA companies, according to market capitalisation, have registered what he labelled their ‘respective house mark’, namely their name and logo, as a trademark.

“We found that 44 per cent of the top 100 companies in WA have not registered their house brand as a trademark,” Mr Joyner said.

“That’s a lot of naked brands out there.”

With this in mind, Mr Joyner devised a set of tips for protecting a company’s brand.

He advised choosing a strong brand from the start, picking one that could be protected locally and internationally while avoiding descriptive words and geographic names.

He also said to immediately register the brand in your name, thereby protecting it.

“Don’t wait until the horse has bolted; apply to register your brand as a trademark,” Mr Joyner said.

And he suggested utilising the services of an experienced IP lawyer for all facets of protecting a naked brand, but said it was especially important in regards to the particular class of trademark in which to register the brand.

He said there were 45 classes of trademark and registering in too many classes (or too few) did not make business sense.

Finally, Mr Joyner suggested that, if the brand was to be extended beyond Australia, ensure the trademark could be used overseas, and take steps such as registering the brand at social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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