I do not doubt that you realize just how important it is to protect your brand’s identity. Especially considering how hard you work to establish it in the first place. There is an unlimited number of ways that your competitors can violate your brand’s identity. I will be showing you several different cases where a company or person’s brand was infringed and successfully defended. Along the way, I will be providing you with some helpful tips to make sure nothing like this happens to you.
Before we get started, I feel it is essential to share some statistics with you. In a recent study, it was reported that just under 50% of UK trademark professionals had contested trademark infringement cases concerning social media names. Things were not too much better in the US or Germany. The number of cases in these countries floated around 40%. If there were one place it didn’t happen too much, it would have to be in Italy, which registered just under 15%. To add more woes to German companies, approximately 48% of infringement cases were related to web domains.
So, what is the point? Well, you need to understand that copyright infringement is not a problem that is limited to one country or another. Even when there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, as seen in Italy, there still are issues with company brands coming under attack. Let’s move on to some ways that you can protect yourself just as other companies have in the past.
Domains and Social Media
In today’s age, your domain and social media accounts are the most important tool for your branding. I am sure that you have it register so that we can skip altogether. However, it is easy to fool people with spelling alternatives. We have seen this several times in the past. Take, for example, if you own the website and brand HardwareTools.com. It is easy for someone to set up a website to look exactly like yours, with one exception – spelling. This can be accomplished by changing the .com to a .net or even .ca, .de, or .uk. Another example is by changing the spelling inside the name – Hardware-Tools.com. When done correctly, it can be hard for your customers to tell the difference between the fakes and your brand.
To help circumvent this problem, I suggest that you come up with a small list of alternate spelling of your brand name and buy up those domains as well. This won’t be money down the drain, for two reasons. Number one, you will cut these people off before they can take advantage of your company name. Second, you can use these domains to redirect back to your landing page of choice. Think of it as having multiple ways for your customers to find you.
Social media is no different. One could easily switch the lowercase “L” and an uppercase “i” to make it look as if nothing was unusual. Take the time to find alternate spellings of your company name on major social media platforms and create a page for them as well. Since Facebook does not allow for two pages to have the same name, it will be harder for these people to impersonate you.
One of the smartest decisions that you can make is deciding to trademark your company name and logo. Not only will this make sure you are not inadvertently infringing on someone else’s brand, but it will also protect you in the future should you need to take legal action against another company.
Trademarks and copyrights go beyond the name of your company. There are many different things within the company that you can have protected. In the past, there have been copyright and trademark claims to colors, sounds, products, logos, and slogans.
Make sure you protect your assets because there is always someone out there trying to capitalize on your success. Only you hold power to prevent this from happening. Trademarking and copyrighting are only the first steps, though. You will have to find the instances of violation and report them. There may even be a fair amount of time that you are going to have to litigate in the courts to reinforce your brand.
One often overlooked tool at a company’s disposal is the use of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). NDAs can be used on different stages of a developing product. Since you cannot trademark an idea, you need to make sure someone doesn’t make your product before you finish developing it. This would put hundreds of staff hours to waste if something like this should happen. When you hire a new employee to do work on your product, you will need to have them sign this NDA.
NDAs can be either very broad or very narrow. At the end of the day, the NDA is whatever you want it to be. Just make sure you have the document drawn up by a professional to make sure you are not violating any laws in the process.
A lot of times, we see brand infringement come from other parts of the world than our own. These can either be intentional or purely accidental. In either case, your brand’s reputation is on the line in these cases. To prevent something like this from happening, make sure that you register, trademark, and copyright your brand on an international scale.
Train Your Employees
Often, competitors will stumble upon your brand secrets due to unsafe practices. Make sure to teach your employees the value of not giving away company secrets. Likewise, you will want to train your staff on the importance of strong passwords. If their email can easily be hacked, competitors can have a way to get into your emails and read the juicy details about your product (which they can then replicate) or upcoming releases (which they can put out before you).
In the long run, all decisions to keep your company safe are up to you. I have provided you with a few of the essential places to start. I hope you have found them to be informative and take them to heart. All the best to you and your company in 2020.