Barbara Jamieson is BridalBuyer.com’s business law expert. In this article, she emphasises the importance of trademarks and four steps to take when protecting your brand.
As the world is starting to open up again, and things are looking more positive (let’s not jinx it, but fingers crossed), we move from a place of ‘all hands on deck’ to positivity and growth–and what is more positive than seeing your business flourish?
I always harp on to you about the importance of getting the right paperwork in place to protect you – contracts to make sure you’re paid on time (and don’t get stung on refund requests), complying with employment law by putting in place contracts with your staff, and ensuring you understand the changes that have come about because of Brexit.
Let me paint you a picture…
You set up your bridal boutique as a one-man band. You start to attract interest, people are talking about you, your sales grow… all of a sudden, you’re ‘known’ for the thing you do so well. You’re living the dream.
Then one day, you open that boutique front door, ready to start another day. You open your mail to find a solicitor’s letter. It looks really formal, and a bit scary. It says at the top “cease and desist”. Panic sets in.
You read it over a few times, and then it all becomes clear. There’s another company using the same name as you (or something similar). They have more money than you and are happy to spend it on legal fees. They want you to change your name within 30 days, or they’ll take you to court.
You consult a solicitor, and she asks you if you have a trademark. “Well, no”, you say… “I’ve heard about trademarks but always assumed my business was too small to need one”. She has to break it to you… “I’m really sorry, but you’ll have to rebrand.”
This is just one scenario that can come about because a business owner hasn’t taken brand protection seriously. We haven’t even touched on the situation where the proverbial bridal shoe is on the other foot, and you’ve got a problem with someone trading from a name similar to yours, and pinching your customers…
These are all risks, thankfully, that we can easily protect against. It’s about dealing with this issue head on, upfront, and protecting your brand like a CEO would. Your business is your baby. Act like it.
You want to register your business name (at the very least) as a trademark to protect your brand. You may also want to register your business logo if you have some extra cash and it’s particularly unique or distinct at identifying your brand. But as an absolute bare minimum, protect the brand name.
Here are the steps you need to take…
Trademark registrations will normally cost about £200-300, depending on the number of classes you choose. This may seem like an outlay that you’re not interested in paying but defending your business name if you receive a cease and desist letter or trying to stop someone trading off your name (when you don’t have a trademark to rely on) can easily run into the thousands. On this one, prevention is so much better than the cure.
Trademarks are complex, and I would advise you to get legal support on the process. Reason being, if you get your descriptions wrong or choose the wrong classes to register in, you aren’t getting a whole lot of protection. As well as getting the process done, you have to get it done right.
For small businesses, legal costs aren’t always seen as a necessity, so make sure to work with a solicitor that offers you a fixed fee for the process. At the very least, this allows you to manage and budget for the costs involved.
And remember, it’s nothing compared to dealing with this stuff after the fact.
If you trademark your brand name, you are protected to use that name, for the goods and services you have selected, for 10 years. After 10 years, you can simply file a form, pay a fee, and renew the registration.
Once you have this, you can issue a cease and desist letter against someone else if they’re trading from a name similar to yours and causing confusion with potential customers. You might think right now that you don’t want/need to be able to do this. Trust us, it’s a good idea to have this option – you never know who might pop-up next door.
And you can be safe in the knowledge that receiving a cease and desist through your own door, and being forced to rebrand, is an issue you don’t need to concern yourself with. Job done.
At Jamieson Law, we pride ourselves on helping small businesses understand their legal obligations and trying to make everything a little less daunting. This includes fixed fee trademark advice and help with the registration process.
If you feel like you could benefit from some one-to-one advice on your trademark, and protecting your brand, or any other legal matter, please take advantage of our free 15-minute legal advice calls. These are not sales calls; just our way of giving back to the business community. You can book a slot here: calendly.com/jamiesonlaw/15min