The High Price of Failure for Intellectual Property Protection

Tiffany Valeriano,

Entrepreneurs now enjoy fewer barriers to market than ever before.

With just a few clicks of a mouse, the purchase of a domain name, and the building of a website, any business can be up and running in a matter of minutes. Throw in some online advertising, and you can be profitable by dinner time!

Thus, it is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time to be protecting brands; no one can afford to rest on his or her laurels. Large companies and small businesses alike now need to obtain and maintain trademark protection, and regularly monitor those marks as well.

Thanks to an abundance of social media participants and influencers, the term "overnight success" is no longer a meaningless expression. Whether a celebrity tweets about your brand, or a customer makes an entertaining Facebook video, products can quickly go viral in today's marketplace.

For businesses and trademark owners, this is both good news and bad news.

In this article, we'll review the most important factors of protecting your company trademarks in our digital era. However, before we begin, let's look at an example of how quickly brand notoriety can now change online.

The Fidget Spinner Story: A Lesson In Trademark Protection

As companies continue to monitor online trends in hopes of identifying "the next big thing," an increasing number of small business owners are learning a hard lesson: maintain legal trademark protection or watch someone else profit from your idea.

Such was the case with Catherine Hettinger--the Florida-based investor missed out on a million dollar fortune by forgoing a patent renewal payment. During the 1980s, Hettinger invented the fidget spinner: A small toy consisting of a center bearing that can be made from a variety of materials, including brass, stainless steel, titanium, copper, or plastic.

You play with a fidget spinner by spinning it in your hand, on a table, or the floor.

Pretty simple!

After securing a patent from the USPTO in 1997, and selling a few thousand units, Hettinger eventually gave up. She skipped the patent renewal fee, and you can probably guess what happened next...

The product experienced a sudden surge of interest, thanks to social media, and the major toy companies jumped on it. As reported by Time Magazine, fidget spinners sales brought in revenue totaling $2.6 million in April 2017. One toy manufacturer told the paper they were collecting 200 orders an hour!

It's stories like this that demonstrate just how unexpectedly a product or brand can become an overnight sensation. Thus, carrying out a winning trademark protection strategy is now more important than ever before.

An Effective 3-Step Trademark Protection Strategy

1. Choose a Strong Name

Brand protection begins before trademark applications are ever filed. While evaluating names, it's important to blend creativity with legal practicality. Let NameCheck help you to find a strong name for your business.

What makes a strong trademark name?

  • It's unique enough that it won't be confused with anything else.
  • It accurately encompasses the values, mission, and experience of your brand.
  • It's available for use both locally and internationally (always keep expansion in mind).

2. Streamline Your Watch Strategy

If you work for a large corporation, chances are you have dozens (or even hundreds) of trademarks in your portfolio. Due to the traditionally time-consuming and cost-prohibitive nature of the watch process, most companies understandably limit monitoring to a chosen few, often referred to as their "Crown Jewels."

Unfortunately, this can be a costly mistake.

As we have seen, just because a mark is a low priority today, doesn't mean it won't become a Crown Jewel mark tomorrow. In the age of YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, things move very quickly. Thus, watching all your marks allows you to stay ahead of the game today and tomorrow.

The problems brands face is that it's been next to impossible to watch all their marks - both from a time and a budget perspective.With NameWatch, you can monitor your entire portfolio in the time it takes to have your morning coffee. Once again, the solution lies in technology-assisted software.

3. Monitor Your Competitors

Finally, by monitoring the filing activity of your competitors, you can stay abreast of industry trends, while keeping an eye on what you may need to defend against next.

Knowing what the competition is going to do before they do it can provide you with rare insight as you strategize moving forward. It may also give you some ideas about what is possible for your brand. 

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Though social media now provides brands with wonderful opportunities for exposure, it also necessitates increased vigilance of trademark protection. As we saw with the fidget spinner, what is fairly unknown one day can become a huge hit the next. It is for these reasons modern companies should adhere to comprehensive trademark protection strategies.

Is your company doing everything it could be to protect its trademarks?

International Trademark Infringement TrademarkNow

tiffany-valeriano
By Tiffany Valeriano
Trademark Specialist

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