When you name your business or your brand, you might not be thinking about overseas expansion.
However, it is worth considering what happens if your brand takes off and becomes an overseas success because you will need a unique brand name or it can be challenged by a company in another jurisdiction with a same or similar name.
This article discusses the things to consider before you name your brand.
Understand the legal terminology involved
The legal term for a brand name is a “trademark”. The trademark (often designated as ) is an assurance for customers of the quality, value, and trustworthiness of a product or service.
Choose an available trademark
This is where locally focused businesses often err. When searching for existing trademarks in your own country (usually through an intellectual property organisation associated with the government), you may find that your trademark is available. However, consider a wider search to encompass other country’s markets. If you are a company in the United Kingdom, for example, it makes sense to the check the US market for existing trademarks if you think there might be any chance of trading overseas in the future.
Use professional advice
There are professionals who are trained in searching and interpreting trademark information. Rely on their expertise to guide your choices.
Ask them such questions as
Q. Is my trademark available both at home and overseas?
Q. Is my trademark similar to anything else and if so, what are your suggestions?
Q. Is my trademark one that people will clearly identify with my product or service or is it too obscure?
Protect your trademark at home
Trademarks must be registered to receive protection. Ask for the exact process of registration at your intellectual property organisation or relevant government department. There should be forms available either online or via the place of registration.
If you have any questions when filling out the forms, ask for assistance from the place of registration.
There will usually be a fee associated with registering, so pay it as required.
Protect your trademark overseas
Once you have registered your trademark in your country, you will need to actively pursue recognition overseas as your local registration does not provide automatic international registration. File an application in the overseas countries where you think you might trade one day in order to receive the trademark protection elsewhere. Use your professional adviser to this properly, as small mistakes can invalidate your registration.
Don’t neglect to register your trademark at home or overseas. It is much harder and more costly to defend a claim of infringement of trademark rights if you have not registered. Registration brings the benefits of evidence of action taken by your company to stake a claim over the brand name and puts other traders on notice because there are official records that can be searched. It is far cheaper in the long run to identify, search, register, and protect a trademark than it is to defend an unregistered brand name and in the process, you risk loss of reputation, years worth of goodwill, and even your brand name if you don’t defend it successfully.