Guest blog by Ramon Kaaijven of Companions
Establishing a brand does not happen quickly but requires years of effort. Proper maintenance of an established brand influences customer engagement and also competition. To maintain your brand as an SME, you need to manage your brand essential. An SME can protect its position with brand management, but how much interest is there for specialist brand management among SMEs?
When trademarks are managed by a trademark agency, all matters related to trademark registration, trademark research and trademark control are taken out of your hands. You can perform the registration of a trademark in your own country independently while for one worldwide registration specialist assistance is required. Registering a trademark is not enough. A trademark office has focused on activities for the legal protection of intellectual property. The trademark office ensures optimum brand monitoring so that the brand image is continued, which increases brand awareness. Trademark control means that an existing trademark is protected against infringement or abuse by others. A brand must be protected against infringement and abuse by others. It is relevant that brand abuse is discovered in time by others. This involves a check to see whether competitors are not marketing a similar brand.
SME (lowercase) stands for small and medium-sized businesses. Medium-sized companies include companies with at most 250 employees and an annual turnover of at most 50 million euros. The small business has a maximum of 50 employees and a net annual turnover of 10 million euros. Because of their position, it is often not profitable for small and medium-sized businesses to hire a trademark agency for trademark management. Brand management is usually performed by a secretary who is also involved in secretarial work. The unfortunate thing about this is that brand management cannot be effectively implemented. You can find a good example of brand management especially at large and international organizations. Trademark management is a complex subject that requires a great deal of time when registering a trademark, building up files, maintaining a trademark and investigating and whether a new trademark is not already taken. Small companies often run the risk of losing their brands because they do not properly protect and maintain them.
Brand management at SMEs
An SME does not have a sufficient budget to outsource brand management. This task is therefore performed by a secretary. However, this cannot take place as effectively as brand management is a very complicated subject. An SME can nevertheless cleverly reduce the costs for brand management to a minimum and thereby reap the benefits of effective brand management. For example, brand management can be carried out by an affordable trademark agency that conducts preliminary research to determine whether the brand has a chance of success. This prior research is typically free of charge. If the chance of success is low, you have saved a lot of costs. There are also trademark agencies that use the "no cure no pay" principle. This principle means that no costs have to be paid in the event of a rejected application. Even in such a case, saving costs saves a lot.
Why a trademark agency for an SME?
An experienced trademark agency protects SMEs from making incorrect decisions and gives advice on trademark registration and protection. Each brand must be renewed after ten years. If you have performed the registration yourself, there is a chance that you will fail to renew your brand. After the expiry date there is still the possibility to do the extension within six months. Unfortunately it is not that simple. If you are late in renewing, you will have to go through the opposition procedure again and there is a risk that other similar brands will object to your new registration. In this way you can lose your brand and you have to look for another brand. This is terrible because you have not only lost the brand but also the brand awareness and the added value of your brand that you have built up for years.
Three brand management tips for SMEs
Here are three tips for brand management for SMEs:
- Use your registered brands. If a trademark is registered but is not used, this will be detrimental to your position. A competitor who uses your brand will triumph because you will weaken your position by not using your brand.
- Compare the trademark agencies. Ask at various trademark agencies about their services and prices. Request quotes and compare them. Trademark agencies can often have high rates because of the guarantees and the advantageous conditions that they offer. It is important that guarantees, conditions and the rates of the different trademark agencies must be properly compared.
- Go for recognized. Always use a recognized brand agency. A recognized brand agency first conducts brand research, acts efficiently and can complete the entire process without any problems. It goes without saying that additional costs will be charged, which will increase the cost price. Fortunately, there are emerging trademark agencies that are conducting the Pro Deo preliminary investigation.
The demand for brand management among SMEs is not that great due to their position. If SMEs do not protect their brands, they run into problems because the larger organization devour their brands. An SME must nevertheless ensure efficient and affordable brand management.