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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Congratulations on Your New Company - 5 Simple Steps to Protect Your New Brand from Being Pirated

By Steven Shape, IP Attorney

As every young entrepreneur starts their new company, there’s a lot of time and energy spent in creating a unique name and logo to represent its products, services, visions and aspirations. As the company grows and prospers, its name, logo, and its brand become assets that are much too valuable to let a third party imitate or copy them in any way.

In order to protect these assets from the start, the legal system can help keep brand piracy to a minimum.  Brand piracy is the counterfeiting of a retail product by importing or producing and selling a product in the United States that uses a confusingly similar name, logo, image or the like to confuse the public.  A number of legal and practical steps can be taken to help protect a company's brands from piracy.  By taking several simple steps, a company can protect its brands from being diluted by such sales of inferior counterfeit products.

  1. Organize your company and protect your trademark - A company should be formally organized as a limited liability company or corporation.  In many cases, the name of the company is used as a trademark as well and should be properly protected.  For example, Apple is a corporation organized in the state of California.  Apple is also a registered trademark of Apple Inc.  By both properly organizing the company and protecting the name when used as a trademark, the founders of Apple Inc. were able to properly protect this highly regarded brand.

  2. Protect the corporate indicia and other distinctive images that identify the business and its products -Trademarks should be protected and include the company logos and images used in advertising, brochures, websites and similar marketing materials.

  3. Register domain names currently being used and others that may be used in the future - Before introducing, marketing or selling a new product, thoroughly research and register any domain names to be considered or used.  It is much less expensive to secure the rights to domain names in advance, rather than having to fight an uphill battle to procure your rights from a third party after the fact.  Getting your intellectual property rights back becomes very expensive after you and your brand have become well known.

  4. Trademark all variations of the company name and its products – Research the perspective names and secure protection of new products, including intellectual property, before introducing new products or product lines.  As an example, Pepsi has trademarked the names and logos of additional products such as Pepsi Next, Cherry Pepsi and the like.

  5. File a complaint with the federal government. In an effort to protect a company’s brand and consumers from brand piracy, the federal government has set up a special agency and website to coordinate protection effort.  It is important to register your trademarks with the federal government upon receiving your registration, particularly if your company has been a victim of brand piracy.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship.

© 2013 Steven M. Shape  All Rights Reserved.

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