Pro­tect­ing your busi­ness iden­tity

Kapi-Mana News - - OUT&ABOUT -

Does your busi­ness have a catchy name and/or clearly iden­ti­fi­able logo? If you haven’t trade­marked them, a com­peti­tor could try to use a sim­i­lar logo and name.

If you have built a suc­cess­ful busi­ness through a qual­ity prod­uct, mem­o­rable logo and sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket ex­po­sure, your busi­ness name and logo will be well recog­nised.

But a com­peti­tor could cause con­fu­sion by try­ing to op­er­ate un­der a sim­i­lar busi­ness name or com­pany logo.

You could at­tempt to stop your com­peti­tor from us­ing the sim­i­lar logo, but if you haven’t reg­is­tered it as a trade­mark you do not au­to­mat­i­cally have ex­clu­sive use of it, nor the abil­ity to eas­ily pre­vent a com­peti­tor us­ing a sim­i­lar mark.

You could go to court and rely on the court recog­nis­ing ‘‘good­will’’ in your busi­ness.

Good­will gen­er­ally equates to an es­tab­lished rep­u­ta­tion, so if your busi­ness is new it can be hard to es­tab­lish. Also, even in a long-es­tab­lished busi­ness, it can be dif­fi­cult to pro­vide ev­i­dence of some­thing as in­tan­gi­ble as rep­u­ta­tion.

There’s no need to leave it to the courts – you can greatly im­prove the sit­u­a­tion by reg­is­ter­ing your com­pany name and/or logo on­line.

This is in­ex­pen­sive and sim­ple. If your busi­ness is worth run­ning, your com­pany name and logo are worth pro­tect­ing.

An im­por­tant part of run­ning a busi­ness is be­ing aware of your and oth­ers’ in­tel­lec­tual property rights.

When set­ting up a busi­ness en­sure you are not us­ing a name or logo that is too close to that of an­other busi­ness. If they ob­ject to your use of the name or logo you could end up in an ex­pen­sive le­gal dis­pute. It would be a waste of your mar­ket­ing ef­forts to have to start re­build­ing your rep­u­ta­tion with a new name or logo.

There are dif­fer­ent fields of in­tel­lec­tual property law that pro­tect ideas, writ­ten work, lo­gos, and in­ven­tions. The in­tel­lec­tual property right most suit­able for you will de­pend on your idea and the level of pro­tec­tion re­quired. Some com­mon types are:

* Copyright. This pro­tects orig­i­nal work, in­clud­ing writ­ten works, artis­tic works, sound record­ings, films, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pub­li­ca­tions. It en­ables the owner to take ac­tion against unau­tho­rised copy­ing of orig­i­nal work. Copyright pro­tec­tion is au­to­matic in New Zealand from the date of cre­ation for a lim­ited

LE­GAL MAT­TERS

time, which varies de­pend­ing on the type of copyright work.

No for­mal reg­is­tra­tion process is re­quired. How­ever, it is sen­si­ble to no­tify oth­ers through a copyright no­tice in the fol­low­ing or sim­i­lar for­mat: © Copyright 2014. Joe Bloggs [or Com­pany Name]. All rights re­served.

Trade­marks. A trade­mark links a brand name with the sup­plier of prod­ucts and ser­vices, and can be ei­ther reg­is­tered or un­reg­is­tered. By reg­is­ter­ing your trade­mark you gain greater pro­tec­tion for your brand name and as­so­ci­ated lo­gos. A trade­mark may be a word or an im­age. There are var­i­ous cri­te­ria to qual­ify to be reg­is­tered as a trade­mark, in­clud­ing that it is dis­tinc­tive to your prod­uct or ser­vice.

Patents. A patent will pro­tect an idea by pre­vent­ing oth­ers from us­ing the in­ven­tion for 20 years. The in­ven­tor must prove they have a way to put the idea into prac­tise and must ap­ply for a patent be­fore us­ing or dis­clos­ing the idea. Keep­ing the idea se­cret is es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of the ap­pli­ca­tion. The in­ven­tion must be orig­i­nal, which can be checked by search­ing the patent records.

An im­por­tant part of run­ning a busi­ness is be­ing aware of your and oth­ers’ in­tel­lec­tual property rights.

Col­umn cour­tesy of Rainey Collins Lawyers, ph 0800 733484 or rain­ey­collins.co.nz. If you have an in­quiry, email aknowsley@rain­ey­collins.co.nz

Did Wool­worths’ stylised ‘‘W’’ breach Ap­ple’s copyright of its logo? The tech­nol­ogy com­pany thought so and mounted a le­gal chal­lenge in 2009.

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