Before investing time and money in developing your business or product under a particular brand or product name or logo, start with a few internet searches to check that your name or logo does not conflict with any brand owner’s existing rights.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner you will, no doubt, spend a fair amount of time coming up with a catchy name for your company and products – and you’ll probably spend money and time on designing a new logo and brand identity. To get an initial idea of potential conflicts, you should do internet searches. You can also show your logo to a trusted friend or family member and ask them whether they think it conflicts with any known brands, also international brands. Your new brand or logo (intellectual property) will constitute a significant component of your business’s assets, so it is worth spending time on this step.
Once you have done your research on the internet, you will have to ensure that the proposed business name, product name or logo is sufficiently different to any existing registered trade marks. The key consideration in this area is whether your name or logo could infringe another brand owner’s rights.
It’s essential to get official clearance searches done and assessed by a qualified trade mark attorney, rather than try to do these yourself. Why is this important? Another brand owner could have registered the identical or a similar brand and even if it is not (yet) using it in South Africa, it can stop you from using a similar brand name for the same or similar products or services. Many brand owners have launched a new product, only to find out that it conflicts with someone’s rights and then they had to change their business name or brand and start all over again. A costly exercise, which can easily be avoided.
At this stage it is also important to check whether there is a suitable domain name (such as .co.za or .com or .africa) available that will match chose your chosen business name. These days it is all about online presence and e-commerce. Consider what domain names to register.
As a general rule, all of your company’s intellectual property (including domain names) should be registered in the name of the company and not the name of the individual who made the application. So if your web designer registered your domain on your behalf, make sure it’s in your company name.
Consider registering potential variants of your main domain name, for example common typing error variants. As domain names are relatively cheap you can consider registering a number of these. Once registered by another person, it can be difficult to recover the domain name from the third party. You can then point or redirect the other domains to your main website. It will help to attract visitors to your website.
A domain name is commonly registered through a domain name registrar such as Adams & Adams or an ISP such as Cybersmart, Axxess etc. We cannot recommend any particular registrar, but you should consider a number of different providers to obtain the right service for you. A full list of accredited registrars can be located at ICANN’s website.
Don’t forget about your presence on social media. Once you have decided on a brand name, create a Facebook page, register your Twitter handle and of course, remember Instagram – a visual portal for your business.
For more advice, sending your queries to our innovation law experts at firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africa’s leading intellectual Property Law Firm, Adams & Adams, has for a second year in a row, joined as a legal; and IP partner of the upcoming SA Innovation Summit in Cape Town, to be held from 12 – 14 September 2018. Adams & Adams, will be on hand to provide advice and assistance with regard to patents, trade marks, designs, copyright and trade secrets, non-disclosure documents (NDAs), Licensing and IP commercialisation.