Many will have been on holidays to sunny climes where the toxic combination of a local cocktail coupled with the charm of a market stall holder or meandering sales man, convinces the tourist to part with their precious holiday cash to become the proud owner of a ‘Gucci’ bag; ‘Rolex’ watch; or ‘genuine’ pair of ‘Nike’ trainers.
In the grand scheme of things, they know what they are buying; they suspect it’s not legitimate and it’s unlikely that the purchasing decision will have any significant impact on the brand which is being mimicked.
But what happens when it’s our own brand that is jeopardised in this way? When our own livelihood is put under pressure because we haven’t put in place sufficient safeguards?
And it’s an increasingly real threat. The global reach of the internet has made stealing brands' intellectual property even easier, and businesses are losing billions as a result.
Take, for example, two cases in the Chinese city of Renhuai, where two seemingly ‘designer’ fashion boutiques opened earlier this year. At first glance, these were legitimate businesses with glitzy storefronts and shelves packed with glamourous handbags and accessories. On closer inspection, however, the stores were in fact called “Loius Vuitton” (rather than Louis Vuitton) and “Plada” (rather than the far better known, Prada).
Closer to home, High Street retailer Next recently agreed a settlement with independent fashion brand, Scamp & Dude over claims it had copied the small company’s designs.
Recent estimates from the EU’s Intellectual Property Office place the annual cost of such deception at £52bn in lost sales for European businesses and whilst the implication for smaller businesses is unlikely to ever reach such dizzy heights, there are several steps you should take to ensure your brand is protected.
First off, it’s worth asking yourself whether you have a design or innovation that others may wish to copy. If you do, then consideration should be paid to whether applying for a patent to protect that design is necessary. And you shouldn’t allow a fear that doing so will alert potential copyists to what it is you’re doing; simply, failing to do this leaves you far more exposed than taking positive steps towards it.
If you fear at any stage that your design or brand may have been copied, then you should take immediate steps to stop the copyists from continuing – such action is no time to rely on a typically British reluctance to engage in confrontation.
Of course, if your business operates in overseas markets, you should also familiarise yourself in the local Intellectual Property landscape to ensure you’re protected there too – enforcement parameters can vary hugely from market to market.
And protecting your IP isn’t a one-off requirement. At every stage of your design or innovation, you should document its evolution. Changes and tweaks can impact on what has previously been recorded and have a negative impact on its protection moving forward if not properly documented.
Intellectual Property can often feel like quite an abstract consideration, not least of all whilst your focus is firmly on growing and developing a successful business. However, the on-going success of your business will be placed under serious threat if you don’t put safeguards in place to protect your brand from those who are less scrupulous.
FBC Manby Bowdler’s team of Intellectual Property specialists can advise businesses across all sectors of what should be considered when protecting a brand, design or other innovation. With the stakes so high, can you afford not to seek such advice?
To protect your IP and more information, contact David on 01952 208421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.