Trademarks are crucial for startups as they represent the entity, goodwill, and brand value associated with the business
Its protection is critical for any startup as it offers long-term benefits, competitive advantage, legal security, advertising benefits, and is useful for raising funds.
Startups should follow best practices for trademark protection, such as conducting a thorough trademark search, choosing a strong trademark, regular usage of the trademark, and constant monitoring of competitors, to safeguard their brand identity
A trademark, as the term suggests, is an intangible intellectual property (IP), which may be in the form of a word, symbol, design, logo, or an amalgamation of any of these. All these things set the identity of a business entity and make it different from others. Trademarks not only carry the identity or recognition of a business but also enhance its goodwill, thus helping in getting new clients.
According to Section 2(1) (zb) of the Trade Marks Act 1999, a trademark refers to any mark capable of being represented graphically and which has the capability to distinguish the goods and services of one person from those of others. This may include the shape of goods, their packaging, and the combination of colours.
Deducing from this definition, a trademark can be any mark used by the business, either conventionally or non–conventionally that carries the ability to signify its presence as different from others and represent the business. The protection of a trademark, therefore, carries vital importance for any startup.
Importance Of Trademark Protection
The trademark of any startup not only represents its entity but also the goodwill and brand value associated with it. The value of the brand and the value of its trademark are directly proportional to each other. Therefore, the importance of any trademark cannot be undermined. Here are some of the reasons why you should protect your mark:
- Recognition: A trademark is associated as an alter–ego of any brand. For a startup, it can generate instant recognition of the products or services. Along with this, they can also certify the quality.
- Long-term benefit: Contrary to other IP protection instruments such as copyrights or patents, trademark rights are granted in perpetuity, subject to timely renewal of the registration for 10 year-term each time.
- Competitive Advantage: Startups can obtain a huge competitive advantage from their trademarks, as the value of trademarks also increases with the valuation of startups. Moreover, in product diversification, consumers can recognise the new product by its trademark, enabling the startup to gain a better market share.
- Legal Security: Registration of trademarks leads to greater protection for the brand identity and enables the startups not only to prevent unnecessary litigation or legal expenses in securing their interests in the market but also to have statutory rights over their IP that cannot be exploited or misused by anyone.
- Advertisement: Along with multiple other benefits, trademarks are one of the best sources of advertising since they create a brand image in the minds of consumers. As the startup gains a greater market share, the trademarks get a household identity and consumers can easily associate the trademark with the brand.
- Useful for raising funds: Trademark rights are very crucial when approaching investors to seek investments.
In fact, recognising the nation’s startup potential, the Indian government has provided numerous reliefs and benefits for start-up trademark registration. The normal fee for filing a trademark is INR 9,000 in one class, but a startup gets a 50% relaxation.
Best Practices For Trademark Protection
The protection of a trademark is critical for any startup because it carries the startup’s image and brand value. Losing or infringing on a trademark can be a huge setback for a startup and result in unanticipated losses. As a result, it is critical to secure a trademark by registering it under the Trademarks Act with proper legal assistance.
Here are some steps a startup can take to improve and protect its brand identity in relation to its trademark:
- A thorough trademark search: Before finalising a brand name, a thorough trademark search on the proposed trademark(s) should be carried out, including due diligence for any similarity in names, logos or any other symbol that may be common with any third-party entity.
- Choosing a strong trademark: A strong trademark should be chosen that has an association with the product/service provided by it in order to have easy identification and reach for the brand.
- Regular usage of the trademark: Regular usage of the trademark keeps it active and protects it from being abandoned. The Trademark Act provides that any trademark that has not been used for a continuous period of five years and three months becomes vulnerable to abandonment/cancellation and is available for use by any other entity.
- Constant monitoring: Startups need to continuously monitor other competitors and players in the market that may generalise their trademark for similar products. In such a scenario, proper legal help should be sought in order to protect the trademark.
Trademarks are extremely important to any startup, and every effort should be made to protect them from any infringement of intellectual property rights or unauthorised use. Any lapse or omission in trademark protection may result in losses or identity theft, resulting in the Company’s market share and goodwill being lost. Trademarks function as an investment in one’s own brand. In the long run, they create immense goodwill and offer a huge customer base. Therefore, it is necessary that startups start being vigilant about trademark protection.