Trade marks are important for businesses, but it can be difficult to know why
Successful businesses like Cadbury are useful examples of how trade marks help businesses secure earnings, now and in the future.
Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry
When we think of popular products, certain brands and their associated logos, slogans, and packaging come to mind.
But have you ever stopped to consider the legal protections that allow these elements to be instantly recognizable, and stop others from emulating their look and feel?
One of the most important tools for branding and intellectual property protection is the trade mark. In this blog, we'll explore what a trade mark is, and its importance by using Cadbury, a company with multiple trade marks, as an example.
Understanding Trade Marks
A trade mark is a distinctive sign or symbol that helps consumers identify a particular product or service as originating from a specific company or business.
It can be a word, phrase, symbol, or design (or combination of these) that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services.
Trade marks act as a designation of origin, confirming to the buying public the source of goods or services. This helps consumers make informed choices about what they buy, while also promoting competition and preventing others from using the same sign or symbol to pass off their goods or services as those of the original company.
Cadbury is an established brand, now owned by Modelez International - whose brands have long been established and loved in the UK.
But what kinds of trade marks do they have, and how does this help the business?
Types of Trade Marks Cadbury's Uses
Cadbury has several types of trade marks, including:
Word Marks: These are trade marks that consist of words, letters, or numbers. Cadbury's has registered several word marks, such as "Cadbury" and "Dairy Milk". These provide a broad level of protection which extends to stylised versions of the mark - but are primarily in place to protect key words from being infringed by identical or similar marks.
Logo Marks: These are trade marks that consist of a design, symbol, or image. Cadbury's has a distinct script logo that is often used on packaging and advertisements. Often times a business will have both a word mark as well as stylised and figurative versions registered as trade marks. This provides protection not only over the word itself, but the way that it is visually presented on products.
Colour Marks: These are trade marks that consist of a specific colour or combination of colours. Cadbury's has continually sought a registered trade mark for the distinctive purple colour that is used on Dairy Milk packaging, and has been allowed to do so with a recent high court ruling.
Other types of trade marks that Cadbury might consider
Shape Marks: These are trade marks that consist of the shape of a product, such as the distinctive shape of a Coca-Cola bottle or the Toblerone chocolate bar. While shape marks are less common than word, logo, and colour marks, they can be a powerful tool for branding and differentiation. The example of Toblerone is an interesting one, insofar as unique shapes which are distinct could be sought to be registered by Cadbury to add unique appeal to its products.
Sound Marks: These are trade marks which consist of a unique sound, which in commerce are typically seen in the form of jingles or stings. Examples of famous sound marks include the "Intel Inside" sting, the MGM Lion's roar and others. Often used repetitively in marketing, sound marks can be useful "earworms" which add another dimension to a brand's appeal.
For more information on the different types of trade mark, click here to read the UKIPO trade mark guide.
Benefits of Trade Marks for Cadbury's
Having multiple trade marks provides Cadbury's with several benefits, including:
Brand Recognition: By using consistent logos, slogans, and packaging, Cadbury is instantly recognizable to consumers. This helps build brand loyalty and trust.
Legal Protection: Trade marks help protect Cadbury's from imitators who might try to use similar logos or packaging to sell their own products. If someone tries to use a similar trade mark, Cadbury's can take legal action to protect their intellectual property. Brands that do not register their key brand elements have less ability to stop others using the same (or similar) recognisable elements on their products.
Competitive Advantage: Because Cadbury's has multiple trade marks, it can use them in a variety of ways to differentiate itself from competitors. For example, the distinct purple colour of Dairy Milk packaging helps set it apart from other chocolate brands. The appearance Dairy Milk bars and the script logo can also help create a unique identity that consumers associate with Cadbury. Over time this has gained a reputation and appeal to the public which drives sales across the scope of the company's product offerings.
Marketing Opportunities: Trade marks can also be used as a marketing tool to promote a company's products. For example, Cadbury has used its purple colour in marketing campaigns to emphasize the premium quality of its chocolate. The inability of others to use similar marks means that Cadbury can immediately make an impression using its recognisable brand assets, presenting audiences with new marketing messages and offerings - empowered by its existing goodwill.
Protecting Trade Marks
Once a trade mark is registered, it is important to protect it against unauthorized use.
Companies can take legal action against those who infringe on their trade marks, which can include issuing cease and desist letters, filing lawsuits, or even pursuing criminal charges in some cases (i.e. where counterfeiting is involved). In such cases, products may be harmful to the end user, or the consequence of criminal enterprise.
Ultimately, trade marks are only as strong as the extent to which they are enforced - and those that register trade marks to protect brands should bear in mind that enforcement is a necessary step.
In conclusion, trade marks are an important tool for branding and intellectual property protection.
Cadbury's is a great example of a company with multiple trade marks, including word marks, logo marks and colour marks, which provide several benefits like brand recognition, legal protection, competitive advantage, and marketing opportunities. B
y protecting their trade marks, Cadbury's ensures that their products are distinguishable and remain unique, and they can take legal action against anyone who tries to infringe on their intellectual property. The use of trade marks is an essential aspect of marketing, and companies like Cadbury's invest heavily in creating and maintaining their trade marks to create a unique identity for their products and services.
Moreover, trade marks play a significant role in the consumer decision-making process. Consumers tend to choose products from recognized brands with trade marks that they are familiar with, which they associate with quality and authenticity. In a competitive market, trade marks provide businesses with a unique selling point, helping them stand out and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
In summary, trade marks are an integral part of branding, and their importance should not be overlooked. Cadbury's, with its multiple trade marks, has become a household name in the chocolate industry and a prime example of how trade marks can be used effectively to build a brand and differentiate it from competitors. Trade marks provide legal protection, build brand recognition and loyalty, offer a competitive advantage, and open up marketing opportunities. As such, it is crucial for businesses to understand the importance of trade marks and invest in creating and protecting them.
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