As a service provider, we are often asked to define brand protection and the most important aspects of a good brand protection program. A quick online search yielded the following well-meaning, textbook definition from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary:
Brand protection: the act of preventing someone from illegally making and selling a product using a brand name owned by another company:
Incredibly, not only does the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary provide no definition, there is not a dedicated Wikipedia page on the subject. For those with experience in this industry, this is not surprising. The reason is that protecting a brand can only be defined by the individual brand owner and the company’s priorities, philosophies, and business strategies.
While almost every company has some sort of brand protection department, division, or personnel, the initiatives, goals, and objectives can vary greatly. This can often be true from industry to industry; however, it also occurs with great frequency from one competitor to another within the same group. For example, one automobile company may place a strong emphasis and dedicate the majority of its resources to protecting its trademark names, logos, and trade dress via its intellectual property counsel and legal staff. Conversely, the automobile manufacturer down the street might be focused strictly on the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit parts and accessories.
Aside from the varying and wide-ranging views on what to protect, most companies also employ distinctly different strategies to combat what they determine to be potentially damaging to their brand. The approaches can implement numerous methodologies including, but not limited to, legal remedies (both civil and criminal), additional patent, trademark and copyright applications, investigations (both online and in the field), technology solutions, track and trace options, consumer education, and even public service announcements.
When considering a brand protection strategy or evaluating the history and successes of a program, it is important to review all options, goals, and objectives, and thoroughly understand the company philosophy before instituting a specific program. Defining what constitutes success within a brand protection program can be difficult and requires a great deal of support, especially when a true return on investment (ROI) may not be possible or practical.
However, with all of this said and all of these variables, there is one thing that most people in the industry can agree upon: you MUST do something. As a company, you cannot sit by and allow your name, your brand, your images, your likenesses, and all of the other investments in intellectual property go unprotected. The reputation and legal standing of your brand can suffer irreparable harm if aggressive and proactive actions are not taken.