If you have a start-up company, I suppose you’re looking for an investor. If you’re an already established company, I think you wish for your company to grow. In both cases, you’re looking for something innovative; something special; something that will set you apart from others. Like Jack Welch said: “If you compete, then you better have competitive advantage. Or just don’t compete.” Nowadays, brands are worth the most. The first thing that the consumers see is the brand: they know what they’ll be getting, they know the quality of the product or of the service, they understand the level of social responsibility of the company, etc.
I agree: investors are also looking for (potential) brands, and business partners are keen to cooperate with brands, but let’s take it one thing at a time. What is brand or branding? If you pose this question to people with a background in marketing, they will tell you that it means the implementation and grooming of a trademark on the market, with a goal of achieving recognition and an increase in sales; they’ll say that brand is an identification. Which is true, of course. Nowadays, however, a brand can only be recognised and valuable if its owner protects it in a legal and formal way, uses it correctly and consistently and, of course, protects it from similar products tarnishing the reputation of the brand. Just think about the war between Apple and Samsung, customs procedures for counterfeit Adidas shoes…
How do we achieve a brand that is interesting for investors and business partners alike? The first thing an investor will do before deciding to invest is a careful examination of ledgers and legal documents. Why? Only the legal certainty and the possibility of intellectual property rights protection namely ensure the exclusivity and monopoly on the market (we’re talking about the monopoly of the brand). It is about risk management. Why would an investor (or a strategic partner) be investing into a company whose trademark, product, or service are not protected on key markets? So that anyone can copy a product without the possibility of preventing it? Why would an investor invest into a company whose contractual relationships ensuring legal certainty on markets are not regulated, when such contractual relationships could ensure a successful and, most of all, safe collaboration? The majority of issues namely stem from trust. Trust in the fact that nothing can happen to the company, trust that the key people will not be leaving, that partners will not change their minds… but nowadays, we can no longer afford to be naive or even arrogant. The global market became an opportunity requiring a lot of thought. And we’re back to the key questions:
Which are the most important markets?
Are our relationships with our employees and partners regulated?
Is our flagship product sufficiently protected?
We follow the same principle used when ensuring a car or a house. We invest money so that we’re able to keep our calm if an unpleasant event occurs. The same holds true for intellectual property and legal documents. Nowadays, companies require a verification of the state of intellectual property rights and the control of legal risks before concluding business deals – how come? Because once they’re a link in the chain of your partners, they can also hit the water and are exposed to high risks if there are no suitable safeguards protecting them – which they do not want to happen, naturally, since the losses might be too important.
The next time you’re thinking about a brand, think that it is only as worthy and as interesting as you are capable of legally protecting it on the market. Think of all trust-bound businesses; think about your trademark or the exposure of your flagship product; think about your strategy, and calculate the value of your brand today. But, most of all, think of how much inadequate dealing with legal risks can cost you.