The start of a new year is a natural time to audit your company's brand assets to make sure they are being appropriately used and protected. These audits can take different forms, but the core analysis involves a review of the trademarks, trade names, domain names, and related agreements owned by a company; a review of the policies and procedures the company has in place to maintain and support those assets; and an evaluation of the relative value of the various assets to the company.
In light of recent trends in technology confluence and global economic developments, following are the top three considerations in conducting such a start-of-the-year analysis:
- Goods/Services Coverage -- Evaluate the goods/services included in registrations and applications, to ensure they cover current and planned use of your marks. With the quickly evolving nature of the digital economy, products and services can quickly morph beyond original plans, rendering filings obsolete.
- Jurisdictional Coverage -- Evaluate countries where trademark assets are protected. Because trademark protection is territorially limited, and laws vary from country to country, a company's plans to expand into a certain jurisdiction can be waylaid by its inability to use and register a key trademark in a new market. Consider whether key trademarks are protected in countries in which the company is rendering or selling, or is planning to render or sell, products or services itself or through subsidiaries, franchisees, licensees, distributors, partners, or sales agents.
- Trademark Usage -- Evaluate the way in which marks are used, including online and in social media. Digital platforms provide unique opportunities for expression, but can also lead to changes in ways marks are displayed or used. An audit can help identify contexts in which a mark has changed in appearance or is used in an improper (non-trademark) way.
All in all, trademark audits can be viewed as a means to enhance the value of a company's intellectual property portfolio and procedures. Conducting a regularly-scheduled trademark audit helps companies understand what value their intellectual property has, how best to maintain or enhance that value, and how to best use IP assets to maintain the bottom line.
This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of MarkIt to Market. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.