How to build a business by RHUM, or the spirit of IP

We have all heard the expression that ”all business is local”, which is very true, but equally true is the fact that even the most local business or product can go viral and travel the internet at speeds unrivaled by the best of Ferraris.

A product with potential is seen on the local market, maybe the inventor/creator would just like to test the public response before deciding on the next step, and in a worst case scenario, a copy-version can be found in stores within a couple of weeks and there is nothing the inventor can do about it.

It is a proven fact that companies in certain industries showing new products at a commercial exhibition more or less expect to find knock-offs in the low end stores within 14 days.

Over the past five years, applications for IP-registrations are up and the numbers keep growing. For instance, an analysis of the number of trademark applications over the past three years has shown an annual growth of between 13 % and 26 %. It is also a fact that, at least within the EU, start-up companies that get their IP protection in place early on show a substantially higher growth for employment and revenue, compared to ‘late starters’.…  Whereas designs increased more moderately, there is still a decidedly increasing interest in protecting the visual appearance of a product, and the increase is global. 

Many companies are spending a lot of time and money on registrations, they eagerly await the certificate of registration and take steps to renew or pay annuities as required. The registration is SAFE! The invention is Safe and we can relax - to that I, as a practicing IP-attorney would say… You’ve done your homework, now it is time to put it into practice!

You see, it is now that our work begins, it is now we work as a team to protect your assets, your market shares and your future - and this is where the RHUM come into play.

You have your registration.  What follows now is the key to success and building a solid business future. It is time for RHUM, and it is time to Register, Hands-on, Update, Monitor, which is how you build a wall to protect your assets.

Registrations

There are so many options. It is possible to register Patents, Design, Trademarks, Utility models, Copyright… The most common approach to registration strategy is EU, USA, China and a couple of other countries of importance to the product - which naturally depends on the type of product and its main markets. Depending on your product and specific market, we can guide you on the most cost-efficient and effective mix of patent/trademark/design registrations and in which countries. Our advice will depend on your strategic needs. Is it to stop import/export of counterfeited goods, to stop copies from entering your market or it can be to use registrations for marketing purposes? Never ‘just’ file an application, be picky and choose the best mix for your product, your business and your market. We will help you with strategic choices and how to build the best possible base for your future. 

Hands-on 

Hands-on can be so many different actions but most importantly - it is in the management. Do not frame the registration certificate and hang it on a wall. Take copies, put together actionable files and databases. Take copies along to every single exhibition, sales meetings and trade fairs. If you see an infringing product, shut it down, there and then. Patents are the backbone of any manufacturing business but for quick action, trademarks and designs are invaluable. There is little point in trying to explain the intricacies of a technical function, complex mechanics are usually not described in a hurry, to prove patent infringement half-an-hour before the trade show starts. But hold up two products side by side and compare the overall appearance, look at two trademarks… if sufficient likeness is there and you can produce the registration certificate - possibly a prior court order in connection with the same or a similar product - the infringing competitor will most likely be escorted out from the area within minutes.

Hands-on also means keeping tabs on competitors, it means using the inexpensive tool of customs action to stop infringing goods coming in or, in some instances, being exported out of the country of manufacture. Most importantly, it means learning how to work your toolbox to the best effect. We will help you find the right tools, and should you wish it, we will be happy to work those tools all the way to court. After many years in the business, we are becoming expert craftsmen on building a strong base for your business.

Update 

A crucial part of any RHUM management. Most people know about divisionals and follow-up patent applications, but the same people will happily register a trademark and let it mature over the years, change color, font, logo…  We have seen it time and time again, companies spend thousands, tens of thousands on marketing material updating logotypes, trademarks or market-tweak versions 2.0 of a successfully designed product. All without updating the registrations supposed to protect the very product or trademark. The leeway for amending/modernizing a trademark registration is very narrow and a registration is only valid, as in effectively protecting the trademark, if used as registered. If not, then the protection is just not there - even worse, an action regarding revocation due to non-use may follow. Yes, there are ways around having missed registering an updated trademark, but that also involves court-rooms, proof of use, proof of notoriety and proof of marketing efforts - all which can be easily avoided by way of an updated trademark application, one that is also adapted to the actual goods/services provided, as opposed to what was the case five, teen or 25 years ago.

And let us not forget design. Design protection has, in most countries, a potential to be valid for up to 25 years. A change in appearance, be it color, finishing touches, dimensions… At worst the ’old’ design will not cover the updated product actually sold, the backbone of your business and your trusted protection after some time potentially targets a product no longer in production. And I hear what you think, ”…but, we already have a design registration. A new similar application will can be invalidated by a competitor.” Possibly, but (and this is the beauty and versatility of true understanding of RHUM) IF a third party attempts to invalidate your new design due to lack of novelty, the outcome can go two ways. Either  the Office or Court finds that there is sufficient novelty for a separate self-reliant registration - which is good, or, if the same body finds the second application/registration lacking in sufficient novelty, this is actually also good - it shows that the updated product is protected (and safe) under the original registration - which is also a brick in the protective wall.

If a product, design, trademark or configuration is changed, the existing registration may not protect what is in actuality sold and marketed. A perfect example would be a registered design. It is more common than not to amend the look of a design over the years, add some functional features (and let me briefly get back to matter of functionality and design later in this…), change some angles, some features… Yes, it may be that the original registration will cover the actual market product, but it may equally well be the fact that the difference is sufficient to be deemed having such overall different appearance that the protective effect is lost, leaving the market open to copies.

It is a mantra of almost everyone wishing to protect designs - functional features ca not be protected. That is basically true, but there are ways to work around this ’fact’. Complex products, building blocks, functional features which do not block others from using the same function but with different features… Do not be so sure that a design with functional features cannot be protected. 


Monitoring 

It cannot be overemphasized! Monitoring is everything. Social media, on-line shops, fairs, exhibitions, old-fashioned advertising… the ways to a customer’s wallet are endless and reviews based on an inferior or low quality knock-off product can be devastating to your product and its reputation! Put monitoring services in place, take down links to phony products and correct faulty statements… In IP ignorance is quite the opposite of bliss – it is loss of business, loss of reputation and loss of potential.

Put systems in place to monitor trademark applications, social media, patent or design applications… But most importantly, be an active IP-owner. Do not  let purveyors of ’almost-real-products’ register your domain name or Facebook accounts. There are too many examples of Facebook accounts with part of a legitimate business’ name in its title which have been in operation for months, causing trouble for the real business, without being detected just through lack of monitoring on the side of the actual IP-owner.

Next step 

So, get in touch and have a talk with us, about RHUM, about all the different flavors, strengths, its production, its mix and most importantly, how best to age your IP-rights  to your advantage, so that you can have your RHUM and use it. 

Talk to Valea, we know and love RHUM.


// Lena Ericsson