Online brands must create brand legitimacy and brand authenticity as part of the brand development process. Brand legitimacy and brand authenticity ensure your online brand is viewed as trustworthy and authentic by the public. This is the beginning of establishing a good brand reputation that is both an asset of the business, and one that is legally protectable. Step one is to secure a federal trademark registration.
Have you ever wondered if it’s really so important to secure registered trademarks for your brand?
Business Assets = Brand Legitimacy & Brand Reputation
A registered trademark establishes brand legitimacy as well as brand authenticity. Intangible assets, including your brand and the trademarks that secure brand assets, are considered “goodwill.” Goodwill is an actual business asset that is often carried on the business’ balance sheet under “general intangibles.” This includes your brand reputation. Reputation is “a place in public esteem or regard: good name.” Merriam Webster Dictionary.
Brand Reputation is the perception of the brand and how the particular brand of the company is viewed by the customers, stakeholders, and the market as a whole. . . . Brand Reputation is a must have intangible asset for the organization.
Emerging brands with real customers and real businesses sometimes postpone filing for a registered trademark as something you’ll do someday, but not now. Don’t wait until that “someday” turns into a really bad day for your brand reputation. You might just be surprised to learn just how important trademark registrations are for creating brand authenticity and brand legitimacy, and for providing a mechanism for maintaining brand reputation. You may also be shocked to learn about what has happened to several of my clients who ended up needing to enforce the rights, or prove they had more than just a domain. The clients who had a federal trademark were glad they did. Those who didn’t, wish they had.
Take the story of Mario, who was sadly one of those who didn’t and wished he had.
Mario launched his computer networking IT business in good faith, coincidentally within 3 months of the launch of Amazon Books, which began as an online bookseller in the early days of the Internet. Mario thought all he needed was a domain name to identify his computer networking and IT business. The home page of his then website featured the Amazon River.
Fast forward 10 years later, Amazon filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accusing Mario of being a cybersquatter, a thief, and having launched his business to trade on AMAZON’s now huge brand reputation. Never mind that Amazon is a river in Brazil and the respective services were unrelated. Amazonnetworks.com was no match for Amazon.com. Mario had never established his own brand legitimacy and authenticity with a USPTO trademark, a fatal error in judgment for his business. He failed to carve out his own safe space with that piece of paper, his own trademark protection. And, when I went to the Court hearing, the Judge could have cared less. She saw this as a business dispute, not worthy of her time and attention. Mario had no brand authenticity to get the Court’s attention. Mario lost his good name and his business.
Brand reputation can be destroyed overnight by one of the thousands of online scams that happen daily. Your brand legitimacy and brand authenticity will be challenged when you become the target of domain hijacking, fake websites pretending to be you, counterfeit versions of your products, or competitors who divert customers by the purchase of your brand name as a Google Adword. My personal beef is with some unscrupulous Internet marketers who disparage your online brand in order to sell their own product or service, using a phony “scam alert” about you or your brand under the guise of free speech.
What is Brand Legitimacy and Brand Authenticity?
Brand legitimacy is defined as “in accordant with established legal forms and requirements.” If you have an online brand and are marketing goods and services online, it’s high time to legitimize your brand. I give this unsolicited advice only with the best of intentions, after helping dozens of clients who had to defend their own brand legitimacy in court. After many years as lead counsel in federal court trademark lawsuits, I can say from first-hand experience: You need a federal trademark to establish brand legitimacy with the courts, the public, and in online marketplaces.
Brand legitimacy is now required for almost any type of brand enforcement even on online platforms. Online brands on the Amazon marketplace are now required to have a federal trademark to be admitted to the Amazon Brand Registry Program. Once admitted to the Amazon Brand Registry Program, brand authenticity, and brand legitimacy are pre-established! And, it begins with a federal trademark.
Trademark registration is the legal process of establishing brand authenticity and brand legitimacy. A USPTO trademark for your brand creates public trust so prospective customers aren’t confused should they stumble across multiple brands with the same name. The entire public policy reason for allowing one merchant to monopolize a term for sale of certain products or services is not to protect the brand owner, but to prevent deception of the consuming public! Successful registration of a trademark can take over a year. Why? Because the process allows for time to make certain there are no existing registrations that are likely to “cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.” 15 U.S.C. § 1052(d). Building brand authenticity and brand legitimacy also means use of your trademarks consistently, and creating brand guidelines to inform use by third parties, including the media.
Branding and Brand Authenticity Began with the Egyptians!
The need for a brand actually dates back to the Egyptians in 2700 B.C. to identify wandering livestock! With the invention of the printing press and weaving of cloth in Jolly Old England, brands and branding began a new era! A brand became the means of distinguishing your product or service from those of your competitors and was meant to indicate trust and authenticity! In today’s crazy world, knowing which online brand to trust is a really big deal!
How Trademark Registration Creates Brand Legitimacy
A registered trademark places the world on notice of the legality of your brand, i.e. brand legitimacy. Who doesn’t record the deed to your house or register the title to your car? But, there’s a greater payoff than a piece of paper. Here’s the checklist of what that piece of paper does for your online brand.
- Legitimizing your brand with a federal trademark carves out your own “safe space” (zone of protection) within which to market to your customers without the risk of customer confusion and deception.
- Your brand becomes defendable against intruders (infringers) into your safe space.
- Intellectual property increases the value of your business and legal protection for IP, including trademark protection is always of foremost concern to investors. Investors are also assessing risk as part of their decision process.
- Prospective purchasers of any business also want to make certain their purchase does not include purchasing unknown legal risks. Trademark registration creates legal certainty and a means of defending rights in the brand and business assets being sold.
- Federal judges charged with overseeing trademark cases won’t take your business seriously or even give you a day in court if you don’t have a trademark registration that spells “legit” in the mind of the courts.
Download our free Consumer Guide to Trademark Registration Services. Trademark protection is made easy with our three-step trademark registration process: Select | Secure | Sustain™. If you are ready to register a trademark, schedule a time to Meet with Us.