Are food and drink companies at risk of not protecting their brands?

 Food and drink companies invest precious resources in informing and appealing to consumers, making their products the most desirable in a highly competitive and crowded marketplace.

Marketing to the end customer has become even more important to food and drink businesses in the current environment; and businesses are, in the main, now focussing on appealing directly to their customer base.

But - of this investment in building and promoting the brand - how much is spent in ensuring it is properly protected?

Now, more than ever, companies must protect themselves as the food and drink sector sees an influx of change, innovation and new purchasing habits.

How to protect your brand?

The most effective way to protect your brands is to register your trading, and product, names and logos as trade marks.

These registrations will cover the products and services for which the trade marks are used or intended to be used. There are 45 classes of goods and services; so it will be important for the trade mark application to be filed in the correct class (e.g. for beers and breweries registration would need to be in class 32 for beer, class 40 for brewing services and, in some cases, class 25 for clothing and class 43 for pub services).

Why register your brand as a trade mark?

  • Exclusive use – registering a brand as a trade mark gives you the exclusive right to use it in the country where it is registered for the goods and services covered by the registration.
  • Protecting your assets – your brands are amongst your most valuable assets; registering them as trade marks ensures that these assets are properly protected and that their value is secured.
  • Maximising commercial potential – registering your brands as trade marks will enable you to leverage their value through merchandising.
  • Defending your brand – registering your brand for all relevant products will enable you to stop others from exploiting your brand (or similar brands) for these products without your permission
  • Protecting a brand, protects the future – the Bass triangle logo has been registered for over 140 years. So long as you use your trade mark and renew the registration every 10 years, it can be protected for many lifetimes!

What can be done to protect the brand?

  • Brand development – when developing a brand, you need to be sure that this a brand which you can protect and freely use; we can guide you through this process.
  • Registration strategy - we can advise which brands to register, where and for which products and services.
  • Clearance searches - we can check the relevant trade mark registers and advise if there are any existing trade marks which could be an issue for you (e.g. which you may infringe).
  • Trade mark applications – we can attend to applying to register your brand as a trade mark, whether in the UK, the EU or further afield (through our network of international agents).
  • Portfolio management – we can look after your portfolio of registered trade marks, reminding your when these are due for renewal and keeping you up to date with any developments.
  • Exploitation – if you wish to allow others to exploit your brand (e.g. on merchandise), we can advise on how best to do this and protect your brand (and to draft and negotiate any licence agreements).
  • Enforcement – if anyone uses your brand, or a confusingly similar brand, without your permission, we can take action against them to stop this.

Summary

The food and drinks sector can be a cut-throat competitive business, but for companies who get it right, it can also be full of opportunities, with ever-shifting consumer trends providing a chance to diversify and reconnect with customers in a unique way.  The key however for anyone wanting to capitalise on a particular trend, innovation or premium message behind their product is to ensure that they retain control of and protect their brand. 

Also, trade marks are likely to become increasingly innovative in the digital age, just last year the first motion mark was registered by Toshiba and was swiftly followed by other British businesses, including a property developer and dairy food company. It is therefore important to ensure ALL your valuable logos and product names are protected as they develop with your products… and if you don’t, your competitors might…

Contact

Our specialist trade mark team would be very happy to discuss with you how best to protect your brand.  If you would like to explore this further, please contact Nicola Hanglin (nicola.hanglin@mills-reeve.com) or Richard Plaistowe (richard.plaistowe@mills-reeve.com).

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