The Indian startup ecosystem has been getting increasing attention globally and a large part of that has to do not just with innovation but also with creative branding strategies. Talking about branding, it’s a common sight for beginners to seek visibility in the market by trying to have a business or brand names similar to leading players in the segment. This, however, has led to several walks down the lanes of courts.
Just a week ago, New Delhi-based beverage company SardarBuksh had to agree to change its name after being sued by US coffee giant Starbucks, which has been expanding its presence in India since 2012.
Prior to this, in June, Mumbai-based tea maker Girnar Food and Beverages Pvt Ltd filed a trademark violation case against grocery startup BigBasket for using the ‘Royal’ trademark to sell several products, including tea.
Around the same time, Metro Shoes, a multi-brand footwear chain in India, accused Flipkart of selling a private label by the brand name of Metronaut, which is deceptively similar to Metro’s eponymous brand.
Okay, so now we understand the importance of trademarking your business or brand name, but how does it affect early-stage startups?
It must be noted that customers recognise and relate to your product through your logo, brand name, slogan, and more. Trademark registration enables a company to secure legal rights to use a particular brand name or logo, etc, while avoiding any legal conflicts.
But when you are a novice in the startup ecosystem, how long should you wait for trademark registration? Or should you even wait? Is it best to do your trademark registration ASAP?
To answer this question in this week’s Startup 101 series, Prasanna Krishnamoorthy, founder of Upekkha, which helps B2B SaaS founders get to their first $1M in accounting rate of return capital efficiently and chart a path of fast growth, tells us that there is no definite answer to the question.
For those not in the know, a “trademark” is an intellectual property that serves to exclusively identify a product or service with a specific company and is a recognition of the company’s ownership of the brand.
Krishnamurthi explains that if your trademark is really unique, then you can wait for a while before you trademark it, but if it is something that’s more generic, then you would want to trademark it as soon as possible.
“If you are doing a software company and you are saying “something-soft” is your brand name, then you would probably want to trademark it. But, if you are doing a software company and calling it ‘Neptune’, then you may not need to trademark because Neptune software is not something that is commonly used,” he explains.
So there you have it. Whether you should trademark your business name soon after starting up or you can wait depends on the exclusivity of the brand name and logo really.