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FEATURE Howes Percival


Food for thought – your intellectual property is worth protecting


In the food and drink industry, you may think that your products speak for themselves. You have dedicated your time to fi nding the perfect taste, look and smell for the customer, so why would you need to protect something as intangible as intellectual property? Customers associate their experience of your products or services with your brand (the name, logo and other features that they associate with your products and services) and you have expended time and energy in ensuring that your products are at the forefront of the market. Reputation is key to building a strong brand and growing your


business. You may have developed a unique product or process which customers are desperate to try. If you have a great reputation, customers will return, they will recommend you to others, and new customers will want to buy from you. However, you may also gain attention from competitors, or those


looking to enter the market, with the risk that some may try to take advantage of your reputation either by copying your brand or using a name which is very similar to it or by producing similar goods


8 ALL THINGS BUSINESS


and piggybacking on your years of research and development. If a copy-cat enters the market, customers may


well be confused and buy from the copy-cat either thinking that they are buying from you, or that they are buying from somebody connected with you. In addition to the fi nancial damage of those lost sales, if the copy-cat off ers poor-quality products or services to customers, your reputation will be damaged if customers associate them with you. T e biggest brands in the food and drink sector


protect their brands with trade mark registrations, but this is not exclusive to the big players. Registration enables businesses to protect their brand, add value to their business and maximise their competitive position. Trade mark protection will put you in the


strongest position if a copy-cat enters the same market using an identical or similar name or brand. However, even without a trade mark, the law of passing off can provide protection for the goodwill you have built in a brand from copy-cats.


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