The importance of brands for businesses can never be overstated enough in view of the fact that brands represent the overall impact of a business on consumers. The concept of corporate identity and corporate image is becoming ever more significant also for local businesses as well as for Malta’s public sector, which has completely re-branded in the last few years.
Branding is what makes consumers go for one product or service over another. It is a known fact today that consumers buy brands and not just the product/service. The way your brand is perceived can attract new customers and increase your brand recognition thereby increasing your business value.
Names, logos, shapes or colours all form part of a number of identifying elements in brand building. A lot of consideration and money are spent by businesses in the creation of their image through the choice of names and logos. However, to maximise on the value of a brand through trademark registrations, businesses and marketing professionals must create brands within the framework of legal trademark considerations. The most fundamental legal trademark consideration is that of creating a trademark that is DISTINCTIVE so that it can be protected and registered. If a trademark is inherently distinctive, consumers will easily distinguish your brand from others. So, it is fundamental to be innovative and creative when designing new brands.
The EU Trademark Directive and the Malta Trademark Act define ‘trademarks’ as ‘any signs, in particular words, including personal names, or designs, letters, numerals, colours, the shape of goods or of the packaging of goods, or sounds, provided that such signs are capable of (a) distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings; and (b) being represented on the Register in a manner which enables the public to determine the clear and precise subject matter of the protection afforded to its proprietor. ‘
Distinctiveness: Strong vs weak marks:
The first trademark criteria is that of distinctiveness. So how does one distinguish between a strong mark and a weak mark in terms of distinctiveness?
The dos and don’ts in branding for strong trademark protection:
1. BE creative in coming up with a variety of names for your business that will represent who you are and your business’ story.
2. CARRY out a preliminary search on the various names you came up with both on GOOGLE, on local yellow pages as well on local and regional trademark registries to ensure that you will not be infringing any prior registered or non-registered marks.
4. APPOINT marketing professionals who will be very creative and innovative in designing your brand name, logos and other signs or materials that will stand out in the market and in the minds of your consumers.
5. REGISTER your newly created marks for protection as trademark registrations add value to your brand and business.
6. DO NOT use an identical or similar name or logo already in use for the same type of product or service. Steer clear away from competition in terms of branding so your brand stands out and you reduce the risk of likelihood of confusion.
7. DO NOT do all the brand designing before you carry out preliminary trademark searches as you may not be able to register your trademarks in view of prior trademark registrations opposing your marks. You will be wasting a lot of time and money.
8. DO NOT use words that describe your product or service as your marks will be considered weak and not distinctive enough for protection. Remember the importance of trademarks is that they identify the ORIGIN of the product or service and not describe the product/service itself.
9. DO NOT use words in your marks that are in common use as you will have no protection over them or use words which might have unintended secondary meaning or undesirable connotations in the jurisdictions where you will seek protection.
10. DO NOT proceed with trademark registrations without seeking advice and understanding all legal considerations and implications as you may incur costs for trademark applications that will end up failing to register.
When it comes to building a brand, it is fundamental that you take your time, you think through what you want your brand to represent, you do your research, get advice and be inventive and creative to create the strongest trademarks that will enhance the image and value of your business.