This is a call out to accountants and commercial lawyers (ok, I’m begging): it’s time to start asking your high profile clients a question that is probably out of your own comfort zone but no one else seems to be asking.
Of course, I’m referring to brand protection and not assuming your star clients have this one covered because unfortunately, the evidence shows trade mark registration is often not on their list of things to do.
How do I know securing trade mark registration is not on the same list as growth, strategic partnerships, hiring, etc?
By the sheer number of high achieving, and often award-winning, businesses I see that have, shockingly, left one of their most important, most valuable assets to chance.
Every day this week, including this morning, I have seen a ‘big’ name in the news, I’ve then checked the Trade Marks Register, only to be utterly amazed that a business this dynamic, this successful, this creative, this noisy, has not bothered to secure the very name that is central to its relationship with customers and clients, and the world. (And not bothered to protect it before they started getting shouty and drawing attention to their success…)
So why am I calling on accountants and commercial lawyers – why not the business leaders themselves?
Well, for some reason – and I’ve witnessed this for nearly 20 years – many CEOs, founders, directors, and executives operate under the myth that intellectual property (IP) rights are optional.
I guess one could make the case that it’s optional to secure a federally granted trade mark monopoly OR leave a space at the Trade Marks Office for someone else to grab your name instead; or that it’s optional to use the right legal agreements to ensure your business actually owns the IP subcontractors have created OR let them continue to own it, which is generally the case with the copyright act.
The other thing that seems to hold back informed IP decision-making is the notion that brand protection is expensive.
Let’s bust that myth right now: securing trade mark registration in Australia is actually cheap as chips (and especially when compared to the value you create and the mayhem you avoid). And you can even use your Aussie TM application as the basis to start the protection process in dozens of other countries, including the US, China and Europe, very affordably and effectively, so long as you start the process within 6 months of filing here.
As business leaders are more likely to be in contact with accountants and commercial lawyers than IP professionals like myself, I urge you to bring this topic up. Of course, the best time to have the awkward “are you protected” chat is when you are establishing what company structure is best – all the way back at the beginning. Once that foundation is in place, these valuable IP assets can be owned by the right entity, which is hopefully ideal should the business receive investment or be sold.
But if that horse has bolted, today is the best day to ask your client if he or she has gotten advice about trade mark registration. You will have the satisfaction of knowing your client has taken a huge step forward in locking down a key factor in their success.
For more information about growing the value in your business through intellectual property strategy, contact me here.
Copyright 2016 Alicia Beverley. All rights reserved.
Photo: Two members of Apollo 13 crew. January 28, 1970. NASA Flickr account.