‘Imitation is the best form of flattery’ is a well known saying. Who wouldn’t want to be copied, imitated, and reproduced across countries without even having a physical presence there? A fine line divides popularity from notoriety. Iconic brands when hijacked by pirates without permission and proper authorisation, when manufactured and sold to aspiring consumers albeit at lesser prices than the original merchandise, undermines brand value and erodes the brands’ worth along with credibility and reputation that the brand would’ve come to be associated with. This, is therefore injurious to the health of the brand. Trademarks, naturally suffer in the long term and end up being notorious regarding their originality.
When are Trademarks considered ‘Well Known’?
Fast paced changes in lifestyle combined with upward mobility has enabled exposure to and awareness about iconic, luxurious, and elite brands across a large cross-section of the populace and not just niche, target audience. Better internet and mobile connectivity, smartphones, tablets, phablets, increased subscriptions to trade specific publications such as magazines and brochures relating to fashion, automobile, food and travel, beauty and lifestyle etc., has played a significant role in enhancing user interface and experience. Televised beaming of live shows, launches and ‘do’s has elevated brand status and brand value to gargantuan proportions.
The term ‘Well Known’ is evidently self-descriptive. Trademarks known to arousing loyal patronage amongst general public from all walks of life along with target audience across a wide age group, consumer appreciation and association with such trademarks with high brand recall and retention is what make trademarks popular, famous and well known.
Pointers in determining Well Known Trademarks:
Trademark Law differs amongst nations and is territorial. There is no ‘single’ International Trademark Law. However, consensus was arrived at by many countries regarding protection of well known trademarks so as to encourage trade and commerce and assure business persons about safety of their brand and trademarks thereby their businesses.
The following points as set out by WIPO assist countries in determining whether a particular trademark is well known or not:-
1. The degree of knowledge or recognition of the mark in the relevant sector of the public;
2. The duration, extent and geographical area of use of the mark;
3. The duration, extent and geographical area of promotion of the mark, including advertising or publicity and the presentation, at fairs or exhibitions, of the goods and/or services to which the mark applies;
4. The duration and geographical area of any registrations, and/or any applications for registration, of the mark, to the extent that they reflect use or recognition of the mark;
5. The record of successful enforcement of rights in the mark, in particular, the extent to which the mark was recognized as well known by competent authorities;
6. The value associated with the mark.
7. Actual and/or potential consumers of the type of goods and/or services to which the trademark applies.
8. Persons involved in channels of distribution of the type of goods and/or services to which the mark applies;
9. Business circles dealing with the type of goods and/or services to which the mark applies.
Steps that make a Trademark ‘Well Known’:
It is important for Trademark owners to strive in achieving the above pointers which go a long way in obtaining the status of ‘Well Known’ to their trademarks. The following steps could act as a primer in that direction:
o Constantly engage with consumers to ensure better brand awareness, coverage and market presence in all the main markets and countries the trademark owner intends to business in.
o Monitor one’s trademark from being imitated, duplicated and reproduced without prior consent and authorisation.
o Most countries follow first – to – file rule. Therefore, be the first to file proposed trademark as early as possible to beat spurious and counterfeit goods along with identical goods from being manufactured and sold in the market.
o Ensure that a search is conducted to ensure there are no similar or identical marks already registered or pending registration. This goes a long way in diminishing legal and commercial hassles in the long run.
o If a trademark is already in use even for some time, provide trademark attorneys with usage information while filing trademark applications. This will help establish priority over late entrants in the market thereby securing better rights.
o Make the trademark and brand work hard by licensing, franchising, selling, contracting with local businesses and enterprises so the brand gets a good ‘push’ amongst target audience. If not look to set up subsidiary or wholly-owned companies and partnerships to manufacture and market goods and services by which the trademark and brand garners precious goodwill and foothold amongst its consumers.
Trademarks therefore elevate brands to ‘celebrity’ status which are eventually enjoyed and cherished for generations to come. There are many such iconic brands that have achieved the privilege of being regarded as precious heirlooms to be passed on from one generation to another. Brands which are truly ‘Well Known’ are really priceless and worth much more than when they began their commercial journey, gathering stardom along the way.
Source by Shilpa Rajashekhar