27/02/2017

Trademarks, Design Rights and Patents – Do You Have the Right Tools in Place?

At times, it is easy to forget that law is only a tool, not an end in itself. The same goes for documentation – content and value over mere existence, every time.

This can be seen particularly clearly in regards to intellectual property rights. A trademark is not a must have extra protection for a trade name, a design right is no award for good design, and the number of patents does not necessarily prove the innovativeness of a company. Neither does the mere existence of these rights guarantee that a company will succeed in the market. Why not?

Strategy in Line with Business?

It is back to basics. It is difficult to stand out from others in competitive markets. Companies often use every possible means to achieve an edge over their competitors with respect to technology, marketing and design. The strategy that a company uses in securing an edge in these areas, the company DNA, should also be reflected in the views of the company, no matter its size, towards intellectual property rights and, particularly, how those rights are utilised.

A well-planned strategy is essentially a half-executed one. However, putting resources into securing intellectual property rights goes to waste if the company has no vision of how those rights actually boost its business. The IP strategy used may be active or passive, and depending on the markets and field of business, as well as on the company size, the level of risk tied to a company’s IP rights strategy can vary greatly.

Have You Considered the Risks?

Let’s change our perspective: it is nearly always a business risk if intellectual property rights – whether owned by the company itself or by its competitors in the field – have not been cleared and even further, if the company’s own rights have not been evaluated and possibly registered and secured by agreements.

However, these registrations and agreements rarely have the desired effect if they are not diligently executed and consistently used. A considerable trademark portfolio may look really impressive, but if the portfolio cannot be efficiently enforced or used due to the low level of protection provided for it, then it is worthwhile to ask why registrations for such rights were filed in the first place? The answer in such situations is often something like: 'I do not know, I have been with the firm only for a couple of years'. A well-documented IP strategy is helpful in a situation like this, too.

The good thing about the nature of strategy work is that its results are not written in stone and the work is ongoing. Hence, further revisions can and should be made.

Well-planned use of your tools is really your key to success. So, in the spirit of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, you may well ask: where is the problem if your set of skies failed you? Equally relevant: what could be done about it before the next race?

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