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The Importance of Protecting Your Brand

Addressing ‘legal matters’ may be the less glamorous side of launching an indie beauty brand, but protecting your intellectual property is essential for any new business looking to stay ahead of the competition.

Maintaining control of your brand and how it is being used is one of the most important investments to be made when launching an indie beauty brand, according to London-based Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer, Mark Caddle.

Mark Caddle is a Chartered Trade Mark and Design Attorney at Withers & Rogers, one of the largest Intellectual Property (IP) law firms in Europe. Mark specialises in IP law and has a particular focus on consumer products, including beauty and cosmetics. Mark runs the UK/EU Trade Mark and Intellectual Property course taught on The Clean Hub’s accelerator programme, helping indie beauty brands navigate the complexities of IP law when launching into new and existing markets.

As a small or large business, why run the risk of having someone else take advantage of what makes your brand/product unique?

Mark says it is just not worth it, especially in a highly competitive, fast-changing marketplace such as the beauty and cosmetics sector.

“From a brand point of view, the risk of not having your brand or IP protected by trade mark or design protection is scary – the worst case scenario is you have a ‘copycat situation’ with another business trying to emulate what you’re doing based on your brand and your nascent reputation,” he says.

“This situation is your classic start-up horror story.”

Mark explains, any brand striving for international expansion ought to invest in protecting its point of difference to ensure a smooth entry into new markets. This involves registering a trade mark in that new territory.

“For example, an indie beauty company may have a distributor in Turkey, who registers their brand as a trade mark [in Turkey]. But say, at some stage, the beauty company wants to cut ties and sell directly via their company website or a different distributor.

“The problem here is that the registration for the beauty brand is owned by someone else, and that ‘someone else’ can use this as a blocking tactic to prevent the beauty company from trading in this market [Turkey]. So, obtaining your own trade mark registration in Turkey would be the smart thing to do, in order to avoid this risk.”

Mark advises that having a trade mark works as a “shield” for your business and distribution network so that no one can challenge how you use that brand.

“Investing in a trade mark essentially gives you as the company an exclusive monopoly to use and exploit your brand, including licensing and selling the brand to others,” he says.

“It's about maintaining control of your brand and how it is being used, locally and internationally.”

The message is simple: IP is an asset of any business and is reflected as such on the balance sheet.

“A trade mark is an asset of the business and something that can add value to any investment opportunity. Investors are going to ask whether you have an ‘IP portfolio’, which protects any innovation you’ve created, so it is essential from an investor’s perspective to have these safeguards in place,” Mark says.

The good news is these risks or ‘copycat situations’ can be avoided with the right planning and proactive approach.

Mark’s course will highlight ways indie beauty brands can stay one step ahead in the game when internationalising and how to avoid any potential trade mark infringement issues which could cut off future sales opportunities.

“A lot of brands are competing for market share in the beauty sector but commonly, not so many are taking the necessary steps to understand who and what is already on the market they are intending to launch into,” Mark says.

“If you’re launching into the UK [from offshore], find out what brands are already registered in that market to see if anyone else has registered that certain name or brand for a certain product because as soon as you start shipping into the UK you don’t want to receive a letter about trade mark infringement, stopping you in your tracks.  If you’ve looked into the existing registered brands, you’re already one step ahead.”

So, what sort of things can be registered as a trademark?

Mark’s course will divulge these details, in treatment of the beauty and cosmetics sector. He gives consideration towards words, sounds, colors, smells, logos, packaging, and also, what cannot be registered under trade mark or design protection laws.

“The key word is ‘prioritisation’ – from both a financial and a business needs perspective, Mark says.

“You need to anticipate where you think people will be engaging with your brand. In which territories will the most revenue be generated? Prioritise those regions and register the trade marks there first. Some markets may not be justifiable early on for a start-up.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about investing time and money into the areas in your business which are going to add the most value, over the short and long-term. And, after all, that is the main aim of The Clean Hub accelerator programme.

“Being proactive about your IP Strategy is an investment in your future and in many ways an insurance policy when assessing the markets that you’re interested in expanding into,” Mark says.

“Brands that fail to recognise these legal realities risk losing out in the long-term.”

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Withers & Rogers is one of Europe’s largest dedicated intellectual property law firms, with offices in Bristol, Leamington, London, Munich and Sheffield. Established more than 130 years ago, the firm remains as passionate as ever about making intellectual property work to its clients’ best advantage. Today, its clients include many renowned, innovative organisations from across Europe, North America and Asia. For more information: www.thecleanhub.co.uk

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