If I were to ask you, “What do Band-Aids, Aspirin and 3M have in common?”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? You might think that these are all things related to the healthcare industry, and while you wouldn’t be wrong, that is not the only thing these three brands have in common.
All three of these things have been the subject of trademark issues. Their connection may not have been immediately apparent because of the different outcomes but serves to highlight the importance of intentional trademark protection in protecting your brand.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, trademarks and logos can be thought of as the ambassador of your brand and ensuring that they are properly protected will go a long way in increasing your brand value. The essence of trademark protection is to solidify brand recognition and to reduce the potential for confusion among consumers resulting in goodwill and increased market share for you.
Before we go into the details of each of the above mentioned cases, let’s first talk about the benefits of trademark protection. The first step when setting up your brand is to obtain a trademark registration which allows you to enforce your trademark rights efficiently against would-be infringers and to set yourself apart as a recognizable brand in the industry you operate in.
It is important to emphasize that trademark registration in and of itself is not a comprehensive strategy. Registration should be looked at as tool in your brand protection arsenal but one that still requires some active participation from you to avoid trademark dilution which comes with damages, including the reduction of your brand value.
The best way to protect your trademark and investment in your brand is to create a plan to identify infringement and misuse promptly and take prompt action before any lasting damage can occur. This is where extensive trademark monitoring comes in.
Moreover, if you do not police the use of your mark in the marketplace and enforce your trademark registration, trademark rights will narrow over time to the point where they can become impossible to enforce.
When you fail to identify and act against an infringer, you may lose a lot of revenue if a competitor is confusing your customers into giving them market share by using a similar name.
3M is an example of what can happen with proper trademark monitoring in place. The company recently launched a lawsuit against a Chinese company for the use of ‘3N’ which resulted in a win for 3M and “significant damages” of 3 million dollars as it was determined that 3N is confusingly similar and the company had managed to acquire clients and market share through using it.
2|Avoid excessive (litigation) time and costs for enforcement
The more people you allow (by not acting against them) to use your trademark, the more difficult, time-consuming and expensive it will be to effectively enforce your trademark.
Another benefit of implementing a trademark monitoring strategy is the ability to monitor for filed applications of similar trademarks by your competitors. It is good practice to do this with the trademark offices in any/all of your jurisdictions of interest. Keeping a close watch may also allow you to timely oppose the trademark application with the trademark office. Once the opposition window has passed, you may need to resort to a more expensive litigation procedure.
3|Avoid the worst case scenario; losing your trademark because of genericide
Both Bandaid and Aspirin were cases where the brand power has almost completely eroded and the trademarks have become generic terms such that people are using the brand name interchangeably with the actual product name.
How often do you use acetylsalicylic acid (or ASA) instead of “aspirin” or bandage in place of “band-aid”. Both were once registered trademarks, but have been lost because of genericide.
While a quick occasional internet search for your trademark is a good first step, it is usually not sufficient for long-term brand protection and will likely only yield results of the “low-hanging fruit”.
You can solicit the help of trademark experts with access to professional trademark search engines. It would also be prudent to have an expert review any licensing agreements you have in place to ensure that licensees are using your trademarks correctly and not contributing to brand dilution by not adhering either to product quality or usage standards (incorrect font, colours etc.).
Talk to one of our trademark experts about the best way to include monitoring in your trademark strategy. We have the extensive expertise and use professional trademark search engines to search for similar trademarks.