The Role Of Trade Marks In Branding And Marketing

The terms ‘brand name’ and ‘trade mark’ are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually two distinct entities.  And while there is uncertainty around how and why they are different, one thing is abundantly clear.  Trade marks play a crucial role in brand success and sustainability.

This article looks at the differences between a brand and a trade mark and provides a comprehensive explanation of the key role that trade marks play in branding and marketing.

What is a brand?

A brand is an intangible concept that helps people to identify a particular business, product, service or even an individual.  Many different aspects made up a brand (such as identity, image, personality, culture, message, mission, promise and experience) and the brand custodians can change and tweak any of these components at any time to maintain relevance and appeal.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a specific aspect of a brand.  It’s a recognisable mark or sign which is used to identify and promote a product or service.  Registration of a trade mark grants exclusive rights to its owner, thereby providing legal protections against its misuse.

Many different things can be registered as a trade mark, including a logo, slogan, aspect of packaging, original name, pattern, sound, smell or a combination of these.  

While both brands and trade marks are both considered to be among a company’s most valuable assets, the difference lies in what each does.   They have different functions.

The role of trade marks in branding and marketing

A brand represents a company’s goods or services to the public, while a registered trade mark gives legal protection to the various ‘signs’ used by the business to distinguish its goods/services from others.

A strong brand can drive business success, but unless the brand is protected by legally enforceable rights which guarantee the owner exclusivity over its use (ie in the form of a registered trade mark), the integrity, market share and competitive advantage of that brand will always be at risk.

There are innumerable examples of business failures as a result of insufficient trade mark protection.  Malicious intent or unscrupulous behaviour is not always involved and infringement is sometimes unwitting – but nonetheless, the cost of transgression can be significant. 

Why a registered trade mark is an essential branding and marketing tool

A registered trade mark is a valuable business asset for businesses of all shapes and sizes – even start-ups.  Simply put, trade mark registration is imperative for building a strong and sustainable brand and the earlier you secure your exclusive rights to a unique mark, the better.  Ideally, a trade mark should be registered before you start any commercial activity, thus allowing the business to promote the brand (or other distinctive ‘sign’ used in the course of trade) as a registered trade mark, which conveys trust among consumers.

An identifying marker helps to establish a brand identity in the market place.  The mark will be used by marketers to build consumer recognition and association and when backed by a strong branding strategy, it can become synonymous with the brand values and offering. 

Once a trade mark has been registered, it provides marketers with the reassurance and freedom to develop a compelling brand strategy which aims to build consumer engagement, drive sales and add value to the mark.  Trade mark registration helps avoid confusion in the market place and it deters competitors from using the same or very similar mark without your permission.

It’s also really important to remember that a registered trade mark is a tradeable commercial asset which can have a substantial impact on a company’s balance sheet.  That means that without the protection of trade mark registration, any investment a company makes in developing a brand could be wasted.

In short, a registered trade mark is an essential branding and marketing tool.

Why a well-considered trade mark strategy is a business imperative

Your brand is your public image.  It’s how people see your company and what they think about it.  A registered trade mark is a specific aspect of a brand – a unique identifier which has enforceable legal rights.

Ensuring your brand is protected by trade mark registration is paramount.  Without the legal weight that comes with trade mark registration, a brand may be unsafe to use and/or difficult to enforce against infringements.   It’s that simple.  A well thought-out trade mark strategy – ideally in consultation with an experienced trade marks attorney – will save time and money and give your marketing team the best possible foundation for building a powerful brand.

Jacqui Pryor

Jacqui is a registered trade marks attorney with the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board and is the founder and owner of Mark My Words Trademark Services Pty Ltd.

After being introduced to the world of trade marks in one of her first jobs after high school, Jacqui discovered she had a deep passion and interest for all things to do with protecting brands and intellectual property. She completed a Graduate Certificate in Trade Mark Law and Practices as well as a Diploma in Business Management and then set up her own business in 2011.

Her motivation for starting Mark My Words was to support SMEs which typically couldn’t afford such a service and while the company has grown in both size and reputation over the years, she has remained true to her founding principles of providing professional, friendly, reliable and affordable trade mark services to all.

Mark My Words now has a client list that spans businesses of all sizes across a range of industries. It provides advice and assistance on all types of complex trade mark registrations, infringements and opposition matters both in Australia as well as overseas.

Jacqui’s wealth of experience, broad range of professional qualifications and her ongoing participation in industry forums and networking platforms keeps her at the forefront of developments in the global trade mark arena. Her expertise in her field has also led to several nominations as a top individual trademark attorney by the World Trademark Review - the world’s leading trademark intelligence platform.

To keep up to date with the latest in the field of trade marks, follow Jacqui and MMW Trademark Services on Facebook.

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