Today’s post comes from Aimee Marsh, who graduated from the UEA Law School in 2005, and currently works for Norfolk solicitors Metcalfe Copeman & Pettefar LLP who offer legal advice and guidance covering a wide range of business issues. Aimee can be contacted on 01842 756139 or firstname.lastname@example.org
So you’ve got a great business plan, willing investors and a major customer has just placed their biggest order yet. You’ve created a fabulous brand – and with a strong marketing strategy, your business name and good reputation is starting to spread. Your business is starting to fly.
Unfortunately there’s a snag. A potential customer you have spoken to a few times seems to have disappeared. Not to be put off, you call them. They seem to be confused – they thought they had placed an order with you! But it transpires they have placed an order with a competitor – who is apparently using a very similar name to your business. Surprised at this news, you look them up on a search engine. The (now lost) customer was right. The competitor appears to be benefitting from your hard work!
You are ready to defend your business at all costs, so you call the manager of the competitor to tell them to stop using your brand. But you’re taken aback when the manager tells you their business name has been registered as a trade mark and in fact, you are infringing their rights! They will be calling their lawyer in the morning and issuing court proceedings against you, to prevent you using their business name!
You decide there’s no option, you are going to have to get some legal advice. You meet with your solicitor. It’s not good news. On the face of it, the competitor is in the right! They have a registered trade mark – that is protected. You are told it is going to be an uphill struggle against the competitor. You are given costs estimates for the legal battle ahead, running into thousands; that is too high for your growing business to sustain. You had overlooked the importance of protecting the brand you had spent months creating, perfecting and marketing at every opportunity.
The next day, you receive a letter from the competitor’s lawyer demanding you stop using your business name. You cannot afford the legal bill to fight them. But the price of changing your brand isn’t cheap either. The cost of a re-design, new stationery, new website, contacting customers, suppliers and other contacts and explaining the situation – so much management time is lost. Your business has taken a massive hit.
You realise this terrible situation could have been avoided. If you had registered your lovingly created business name and logo as a trade mark when you had first invented it, you most likely could have stopped the competitor in its tracks and prevented them from using your business name. You would have been in the driving seat. And it would have cost a few hundred pounds, rather than thousands. Your new business name, you decide, will be registered as a trade mark.