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intellectual property rights

The importance of taking prompt action to protect your brand

| Published on August 10, 2015

The brand can be your business’s most valuable asset. It is essential to take steps to protect the brand and its value.

You will know that lawyers talk about intellectual property rights in relation to brand names, logos, trade dress, and so on.

Intellectual property rights fall into two categories: registered and unregistered. Registered rights include things like patents, trademarks and designs all of which are registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Unregistered rights include things like copyright, unregistered designs, unregistered trade marks and confidential information. Those are rights which have not been registered with the IPO, or cannot be registered.

A successful brand is vulnerable to exploitation by competitors.  They use names or designs which are similar.  If this can confuse customers this can be ‘passing off’ their products and services for yours.  The result is usually a reduction in sales or profitability. There will also be long-term brand damage where inferior products are made available. To protect your brand rights make sure they are either properly registered, or, if they cannot be registered, then correctly recorded in good documentation.

A competitor may take unfair advantage of your brand, in spite of you having taken all the right steps to protect it. Passing off undermines brand value by creating confusion in the marketplace.. You may need to look to the Courts to enforce your rights. .

Court cases may take many months, or even years, to conclude. In the meantime, your brand may be suffering. However, there is a process to get a quick judgment to stop your competitor exploiting your rights. This is an injunction.

In a recent High Court case called Hospital Metalcraft Limited -v- Optimus British Hospital Metalcraft Limited and ORS (2015), Humphries Kirk acted for a business to successfully get an injunction. The judgment stopped our client’s competitor from using a brand that was confusingly similar to its own. The client avoided a long wait until trial and got its legal costs paid by its competitor. This case was successful because the client acted quickly and decisively.

It is important to weigh up the consequences of inaction against potential harm to your brand and your business. Do not shy away from considering a robust response. Injunctions should not be your first thought, but may be the way to stop a competitor taking work away or flooding the market with inferior goods.  Humphries Kirk represent clients both applying for and defending injunctions.

In the first instance we do the work of protecting brands through effective contracts. Prevention of exploitation by deterring competitors, is always better than ‘cure’ by going to Court.

For any further advice please contact the commercial team at our Dorchester office on 01305 251007 or our Poole office on 01202 725400.

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