In today’s business environment, protecting a brand is not a luxury but a necessity for small and large companies to ensure a level commercial playing field and to for small and large companies to ensure a level commercial playing field and to realise the continued growth of valuable assets.

Nothing is so exposed to imitation and exploitation of reputation as success. Accordingly, the first goal of a company’s trademark strategy must be that its brands succeed by ensuring the greatest possible protection of trademarks and products. Here are seven steps to achieve this goal.

Choose wisely

The more creative and unique a brand is, the greater the success and the easier it is to protect. A word, phrase, or sign that is commonly used for a good or service cannot function as a trademark.

A trademark can be a word, logo, or combination of both, used to identify and distinguish the goods of one’s company from the goods of competitors. The shape of a product or its packaging may also be protected.

Before registering it or starting to use it, have your brand checked. The internet is a good source for starting your trademark search. Additional searches may be conducted by IP specialists with access to international trademark databases.

Get to register

Registering a trademark provides many benefits. As the registered owner you have the exclusive right to use your trademark in connection with the goods and services listed in the trademark registration. Your registered sign gives you an even stronger position and makes it easier to prove your rights of ownership for a special priority. It also triggers special rules for enforcing rights against counterfeiters.

A registration policy aimed at completeness and perfection should be worked out closely with IP specialists based on a unique trademark, the geographical area of operation (national or international level of protection), and scope of business (goods and services protected under the brand). Bear in mind that one size does not fit all; also consider the next 10 years of business development.

Distinguish in use

Develop guidelines on how to use trademarks and pass it on to the staff of your company, promoters, marketers, licensees, and other business partners. Use CAPITAL LETTERS, bold, or italics to emphasise your trademark in business and marketing. Make everyone aware that you are claiming rights to a mark by using the ® (for registered trademarks) or TM (for non-registered trademarks) symbol. And place a descriptive term for the product next to the trademark to avoid genericide.

Promote and make it famous

An essential goal of a trademark strategy is to establish a brand as a known, or even famous, trademark. Not only does this enhances the value of your mark, but you may also enjoy even greater trademark protection under intellectual property and unfair competition laws.

Monitor competition closely

In some ways it is actually a good problem if you see imitations of your sign showing up on the market. It proves that you have a hot brand. But it also devalues it. Therefore, be proactive in every aspect of brand protection. Take the lead and be on the lookout in new and traditional media for competitors trying to imitate your brand. The internet is an ideal for marketing, so regularly search engines, social networking sites, auction and trade board sites, emails, and blogs for possible infringers, and review meta tags and create Google alerts. Ask your IP experts for international watch services, allowing you to receive notices of third parties attempting to register similar trademarks. Offer a legal email address for reporting infringements. Check with your IP lawyers on how to cooperate and register your trademarks with customs in order to promote recognition and allow assistance in seizures.

Tackle black sheep

The number of similar trademarks and the events for taking unfair advantage of legitimate brands keeps growing. Even if you cannot completely shut down a counterfeiter’s operations, take any action that might make it difficult for them. They might move on to an easier target.

When you have noted an infringer, it pays to vary your approach depending on the case. The process might involve sending cease and desist letters, or opposing or filing cancellation actions against confusingly similar trademarks. The filing, or threat to file, of an action can engender a delimitation agreement. You might also wish to publicise an opposition/cancellation ruling in the media and inform unaware consumers through special awareness campaigns. Go to court claiming unfair competition if necessary. If acceptable, negotiate coexistence agreements to put adverse parties in their place. Under special circumstances, consider buying similar, newlyapplied- for trademarks by releasing the applicant of his initial investment.

Best time to start

Start today. When it comes to IP protection, priority is always of the essence.

In some ways it is actually a good problem if you see imitations of your sign showing up on the market. It proves that you have a hot brand. But it also devalues it. Therefore, be proactive in every aspect of brand protection.