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 Rebranding legal issue

Rebranding: Legal issues you can’t afford to ignore

October 20, 2014

How to protect your brand when you rebrand

Our recent brand refresh has involved a new logo, tagline and completely new brand colours.

As we had to get new website designs, social media profiles, letterheads, brochure, business cards, newsletter design and more, it might be interesting to explain how we went about protecting our new brand.

Having first hand experience of what our clients go through when they rebrand, it is important to add that anyone who is tempted to pick a name without doing proper due diligence should think long and hard about what would be involved if they had to rebrand. It is not sensible to shrug off the risks, and assume rebranding is something effortless. It involves changing everything. If you have to do it at short notice, then the time, cost and disruption could cause business failure.

So, don’t take a risk over your name. It is not a sensible business risk to take, and is more like  gambling..

For us the work involved in a rebrand was made easier as our name ‘Azrights’ was not changing, and we had already registered it as a trademark back in 2005.

Contract with the designer

The starting point for protecting our new logo was the contract with our designer.  When we commissioned the work we read the designer’s terms thoroughly and negotiated a number of changes to ensure we would own all the rights to our new logo, and designs.

Once we were happy with the contract terms we engaged the designer. Her role was to deal with the overall strategy and creation of the new logo.  Our own separate web business implemented the new designs and created our new websites, letterheads and brochure etc.

For anyone who is outsourcing such work, it would be important to agree IP and other details upfront before engaging the company.

Old and new logo

Our previous logo had been created shortly after Azrights was formed. Back then we differed from other law firms simply because we were an IP law firm. However, we had not focused on differentiating ourselves from other IP firms.

In a future post I will explain the rationale behind our rebrand. Here I want to highlight the steps we have taken to protect the new brand and explain the reasons.

Our chosen logo back in 2006 comprised this old fashioned typescript because it denoted Intellectual Property (IP), creativity and copyright.



This is the new logo


Having secured copyright ownership in the new logo under our agreement with the designer, we carefully kept a copy of that contract on file in order to have proof of our copyright ownership.

We then went on to register the logo both as a trademark and design.

The benefit of registering the logo as a design is to have better recourse if others copy it. It provides more powerful protection of the distinctive look of the logo.

The benefit of design registration

Consider Coca Cola’s distinctive iconic bottle shape. Had they not protected the initial design with registrations Coca Cola would not be in the position they are in today of owning the bottle design. Without design protection the bottle could and would have been copied by numerous other drinks companies, and nobody would uniquely associate the bottle shape with Coca Cola.

We are hardly in Coca Cola’s league. However, the principles for any brand are similar. If you have something distinctive, protect it so it can remain distinctive and unique to you.

To draw an analogy between business and war, in business it is fair to assume others will copy you. Intellectual property rights provide the way to tackle copying and to deter competitors from encroaching on your rights. They are the equivalent of the weapons with which you would arm yourself for war.

IP rights help you to fend off copying of your distinctive names, logos and inventions. Whether you choose to do so or not by taking legal action is a separate matter. Often, simply registering your rights is enough to deter others from copying.

Good preparation for business

In business securing whatever IP rights you can secure over important brand elements like your name and logo is advisable.

When preparing for war you would probably take a range of weapons with you, such as guns, knives and hand grenades in case a knife was more suitable than a gun for a particular situation. IP rights are similar in that copyright, design registration, and trade marks each give you different possibilities to object to copying. They complement each other.

If anyone were to copy our new logo the copyright in the logo may not be enough basis to stop the copying. The other party might try to claim they came up with a similar logo independently without copying our logo. Proving that they copied our logo might be an insurmountable, expensive hurdle.

Design registration makes it easier to stop copying

In contrast, our design registration puts us in a very strong position. The mere fact that the logos are the same would be enough to put the other party in the wrong, even if they argued that they did not copy our logo.

We have our trade mark too. In some situations the trade mark may not help us tackle copying. For example, if the logo was copied on a website that was not selling anything, we could not use our trade mark to complain about the copying.  We could, however, use our design registration to do so.

Having all rights in the logo

Having copyright, design, and trademark protection over the logo puts us in a stronger position to tackle whatever happens in future.

If you have branded your business why not take our test to find out what gaps there are in your business’ IP – Protect your IP?