Keeping an eye on your market, and competitors, can help build brand integrity and value.

On November 19 Jason Paris, a General Manager at Spark, was quoted in the National Business Review as being “pissed off” that Vodafone had launched its “Fantastic Friday’s” loyalty programme, two weeks before Spark’s “Thanks” campaign.

While it may have been a case of good timing, Vodafone’s Head of Communications revealed (in a responding article on 20 November) that he knew Spark’s campaign was coming, tipped off in part by Spark’s filing of the trade mark 'Thanks' in July.

Why watching services are important

The Trade Marks Register lists trade marks and their owners on a publicly viewable and searchable database. This resource can be utilised to enhance your existing brand protection and can be used to keep you aware of your competitors’ movements.

A good watching search can help you stay aware of competitor activity and industry developments, as Vodafone were able to do, and keep you informed of applications which may compete with or encroach upon your existing rights.

A watching service can be tailored to your needs, providing you with information on local and international trade mark filings in your industry and or by specific competitor among other things. 

The results of your watching service can provide you with an early “heads up” and allow time to consider what steps should be taken to enforce your intellectual property rights. Any misuse or infringement of rights in a trade mark should be acted upon without delay. Allowing small and incremental encroachment on your rights can, over time, erode the strength and distinctiveness of your trade mark. Delays in action can also prejudice obtaining more immediate interim relief from a court.

A marketplace watching service can also alert you to misuse of your brand that could ultimately lead to the trade mark becoming generic. If your trade mark ceases to indicate you as the source of your goods or services, and becomes descriptive of the goods itself, your registration can become vulnerable to attack. Keeping alert to how your brand is being used in your industry and by your consumers can help prevent this.

Shielding your trade mark filings from competitors

If you are “watching” your competitors, they are probably watching you! There are however ways that you can temporarily shield your identity when filing a trade mark so that a competitor, specifically “watching” you may not be so easily alerted to new trade mark applications.

Brand protection does not involve trade mark registration only.  Brands need to be constantly and effectively monitored, and action needs to be taken to prevent their misuse maintaining brand value.