Trademarks are the form of intellectual property that differentiates one company identity from another to customers. A well-established brand engenders customer awareness, loyalty, goodwill association and perceived quality. In the present market of endless “similar” products and services, company trademarks and brands are becoming the most valuable assets a company owns.
The Value of a Brand
For any product or service to succeed in the marketplace and demand the price it deserves, it must have something that distinguishes it from the drove of other similar products. Take, for example, soda pop. Despite the hundreds of brands of soda pop on the market, all selling pretty much the same varieties, Coca-Cola and Pepsi own more than 60% of the world market. It is not because their products are so much better than everyone else’s or because they have patents protecting them – or even a rumored, secret recipe. It is because the public perceives the brands to be more desirable, to taste better, and to be higher quality. That loyalty and goodwill association to the products is embodied in their trademarks.
Trademarks are the Differentiator for Success
Particularly for products that do not yet have or are not eligible for patent protection, establishing trademark rights as a product differentiator is critical to success. Imagine a company that has an incredibly innovative product never before seen in the marketplace. The company launches its product, fights and works hard so that the market will understand the product and accept and even desire it in the market, and sales eventually go through the roof. If the company does not have something in its arsenal to maintain that wave of success, competitors will quickly come in with knock-offs and competitive products, and the price will drop from the competition, and the originator of the concept will lose market share. The time and effort spent innovating the new product may be lost, and the company can move to a new product. Many companies take the approach of constantly coming up with new innovations and products without any intellectual property protection using the rationale that the life cycle of the product is too short to waste money on protecting it. This can be a successful, if not expensive, approach.
Immediate and Lasting Protection with a Trademark
However, even if the product itself does not have a long product life, if the company takes the time and effort to establish a solid trademark and brand for each of their product(s), and even possibly reinforces the innovation with a “Patent Pending,” competition will not only be much less likely to try to compete, but those who do compete will need to fight the reputation of quality and innovation that accompanies the first product to the market. Being first to the market is a great brand strengthener. If the first comer doesn’t have a strong, enforceable brand, the advantage of being first may be completely lost. With a strong brand, even if a company is not first to the market, when the company comes out with new products, some of the strength of the previous products transfers to the new products as customers associate the success, goodwill and added value of the brand with all of the brand’s products. Having an established brand and enforceable trademarks keeps the customers, recognition, goodwill and loyalty with the brand. If patents were also in place, competitors would not even be able to lag behind the company. They would be forced to use old technology or innovate themselves.
Careful selection of a trademark and constant monitoring of your competition to ensure no one is using your trademarks or ones that are similar to you helps to protect your company value, reduces the effort for future sales on other products, and reduces the potential for a law suit.