Branding and reputation often go hand-in-hand and a charity’s good name and reputation are, unquestionably, among its most valuable assets. However, the effectiveness of brand protection is often overlooked by charities.

Protecting a logo or brand name by way of trade mark registration is crucial to ensure that it is not replicated or copied and no other  organisation can benefit from the reputation of a charity or, equally, ruin it. Don’t assume that registering a domain name, using a trading name or registering your charity name at Companies House will protect you.

Owning a registered trade mark turns the brand into a tangible asset, as it provides the owner with exclusive rights to use its trade mark in connection with selected goods and services for which the mark is registered. This means the owner can use the brand more effectively.

 

How can trade mark protection benefit charities?

Protecting your brand can help to control both the reputation and public image of your organisation, ensuring it cannot be used without your authority.

Similarly, it creates a tangible asset for your organisation and the opportunity to monetise your brand through licensing to other organisations, be that in collaborative efforts or other commercial partnerships. Equally, it ensures your brand does not get misused in such situations.

To illustrate how important branding and trade marks are to charities, the list below shows some of the largest charities in the UK and their trade mark portfolio (not including expired marks):

  • Cancer Research UK
    • 48 registered UK trade marks
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
    • 38 registered UK trade marks
  • British Heart Foundation
    • 18 registered UK trade marks

 

Three steps to take now

To start the ball rolling, the first step is to conduct trade mark availability searches to identify what you can protect. If there are no similar or identical marks registered, it is likely that you will be able to successfully register yours.

Following this, it is important to get your key names and logos registered as soon as possible as the registration system works on a “first come, first served” basis. It is equally important to identify who will be the registered owner of the mark; it is recommended that this be the organisation (where it is a registered company).

Finally, once this process has been undertaken, it is imperative that all branding-related agreements from that point forward are set out clearly and in writing. There are certain elements that must be included in agreements when dealing with intellectual property rights, such as trade marks. As such, it is important to know that these agreements have been drafted properly  in order to provide the best protection.

Stephens Scown has a dedicated trade marks team and can assist with protection of your brand from start to finish, from trade mark protection to contract drafting for commercialising your brand.

If you have any questions regarding the protection of brands for charities or would like help with anything else mentioned in this article, please contact Jessica O’Riordan, a solicitor in our IP/IT team on 01392 210700 or by email at ip.it@stephens-scown.co.uk.