How to save yourself a fortune and a lot of heart ache.
A few years ago I was on the receiving end of a panic phone call from a client about to launch a new clothing range. We’d helped this business with a couple of clearance searches for their proposed new brand and eventually, we’d found a brand that they liked and which didn’t conflict with any another brands in class 25 at the Trade Mark Office. Class 25 is the class used for trade marks at the trade mark office and as you can imagine it has a huge number of existing registrations in it so finding a “clear” mark is a challenge.
However, after deciding on a brand and applying for a trade mark the business was persuaded by their creative team to launch with another and quite different brand name. When the goods were about to be shipped no one did any further brand searching on the new name and as the branded clothing hit the South China Seas in a full size container, the creative team generated lots of prelaunch PR – including coverage in well-known women’s magazine. The nationwide coverage was so fabulous that Sainsbury’s marketing team picked it up and immediately instructed their lawyers to do a cease and desist letter. You’ve guessed it – my client was using Sainsbury’s unregistered brand on their clothing range!
£100,000 of product had to be rebranded upon importation. Cost over £10,000 as each item had the new brand name stitched onto it.
The client had to pay for a further £40,000 of PR, packaging, website development, and brochures etc.
Luckily thanks to our help the company didn’t end up paying Sainsbury’s legal costs and damages etc and the rebranding was smooth but time-consuming and expensive.
You see it is a compete fallacy to say “ask for forgiveness rather than ask permission”. When it comes to branding many brand owners are very unlikely to give you permission. If you’re lucky you can buy the brand off them or co-exist in some way. In the worst case scenario, if you use someone else’s trade mark HM Customs and Excise will impound your goods at the docks and destroy them. Some mistakes can be expensive and some branding mistakes are entirely avoidable – here’s how.