How to Start Your Rebranding Strategy 

Before your business decides to rebrand, you must start the process considering the legal issues involved. If you don’t, your rebranding strategy will be worthless and will put your company’s brand equity in danger.

Protect Your Logo, Name and Tagline

For the most part, two intellectual property rights — copyrights and trademarks — cover your brand. Make sure you understand how they apply to your rebranding strategy.

  • Copyrights.  A copyright grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution. This applies your brand’s graphic elements.
  • Trademarks. A registered trademark ensures that a recognizable sign, design or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source can only be used by the owner. Taglines and business names are protected under trademark law.

It’s important to know that while copyrights protect your brand, they do not stop someone from using similar branding. Trademarks, however, do stop others from using any related brand design or language. Obtain the proper copyrights and register your business’s trademarks as one of the first steps of the rebranding process.

Pay Close Attention to Your Logo

Your logo will only be protected by registering both copyrights and trademarks. Also, remember that copyright law grants ownership specifically to the creator of your logo. So if you contracted an external graphic designer, ad agency or brand consultancy to create your logo as part of the rebranding process, they would own the copyright unless their contract states otherwise.

Therefore, it is critical that you specify in writing that the business commissioning the logo owns the copyright, not the contractor.

Check for Earlier Trademarks

Remember that only a registered trademark grants its owner brand exclusivity. It guarantees that other businesses can’t even register domain names with the trademark. Thus, make sure you are not infringing on any other registered trademark, or else you might have wasted time and money on a rebranding that you can’t own.

Ensuring your business has an exclusive trademark is a valuable cornerstone to any rebranding strategy.

  • Search for Earlier Trademarks. Visit the US Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and see currently registered trademarks and pending applications in the United States.
  • First to Use, Not First to File. In the United States, trademark rights go to the first entity to use the mark, not the first to file an application.
  • Apply Early! A pending application can secure priority to trademark rights even though it hasn’t yet been used. Submit an online application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as early as possible.
  • Trademarks are Country-Specific: If you have an international rebranding strategy, you must file for trademarks in each country. However, you can register a trademark for the entire 28-country European Union.

For more information, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Act Quickly If You Discover Infringement

The longer branding conflicts remain unsettled, the more costly and complicated they become. Thus, it’s in your best interest to act immediately once you find any copyright or trademark infringement. Often, a simple email or letter is all you need for others to stop. However, a formal cease and desist letter should be ready just in case they don’t.

Make sure your rebranding strategy covers enforcement. Intellectual property attorney Kelley Keller recommends knowing specific answers to these five questions:

  • Who will be in charge of enforcement?
  • What enforcement activities will we employ?
  • When will we take action?
  • Where will we consider enforcement, e.g. domestic and/or international?
  • Why do we need to police our rights, i.e. what are the costs associated with infringement?

Follow these guidelines when considering your rebranding strategy and you will be in a much better place. Once you’re ready to start, contact UpCounsel trademark attorneys to get help with a successful rebranding campaign.

Image: “tropicana – old and new” by j_lai, used under CC BY / Brightness altered and cropped from original

About the author

Alex Liu

Alex Liu

Alex began his career as a scientific legal consultant and then as a journalist researching and reporting on health policy and health sciences. At UpCounsel, he enjoys researching and analyzing data to help businesses make informed decisions. In his free time, Alex is working on a documentary.

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