Building a unique brand is essential for every business, be it involved in manufacturing, distribution of products or delivery of services. Businesses rely significantly on their brand value and reputation for commercial growth and consumer base expansion. However, more than establishing a brand, it is important to get its exclusive proprietorship. Intellectual property is one of the most crucial asset of a company which makes it imperative to protect it and safeguard it against unwarranted use and wrongful gain. Even if a brand is capable of defending itself against exploitation by unscrupulous competitors, it is necessary to seek as much legal protection for the established goodwill as possible. Recently, Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry, also commented on the importance of IP protection for effective brand building.
The misconception that trademark registration is useful only for MNCs and large corporations is widespread and for that reason many small businesses and entrepreneurs are discouraged to protect their businesses’ intellectual property. They fail to recognize the benefits of registration, like the financial benefits which include opening up opportunities for licensing revenue, franchise, increased exit valuations and increased borrowing prospects, that are possible with formal registration which gives legal reinforcement to a company’s use of their intellectual property. Monopoly rights which help to prevent third parties from creeping into your territory by using an identical or confusingly similar mark on identical or similar products are granted to the proprietor by protection of intellectual property. Other benefits of protecting the intellectual property include the ability to use the registrations within market messaging. Geographical indications can also add value to brand image by boosting perceived quality like Darjeeling tea.
Intellectual property, however, is not an end in itself but a powerful means for achieving the end of brand success. Their value is much more than being passively available on a register. They must be used creatively and should be used as commercially valuable assets than mere legal concepts and enforceable rights. This can be achieved primarily by putting them to work as tools for creating and developing a brand value for fostering the business. Strong brand image is a result of various efforts like the brand strategy, communication, marketing, media usage, quality control, trying to have an edge over the competitors. Even though the unregistered trademarks are protected as the proprietor has a recourse to common law remedies like passing off.
However, they offer a very narrow scope of protection and a limitation on assertion of the proprietary rights. Therefore, trademark registration is recommended since it makes the proprietor the exclusive owner of the intellectual property across the applicable territory.