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Shaping Brand Identity: Lessons from Valentine's Day

Shaping Brand Identity: Lessons from Valentine's Day

Chocolate is a popular gift on Valentine’s day.

Did you know Cadburys was the first company to package “eating chocolates” as Valentine’s day gifts in the 1860s?

It missed the opportunity to manage competition by applying to patent or register the design of its chocolate heart boxes. Shapes can become a unique distinguishing factor for a brand, just as colours can.

A name and logo are "signs" through which customers identify the origin of goods and services. Trademarks protect such identifiers.

Unlike with a name or logo, you can't simply register a trademark for a colour or shape though. You must first provide evidence that such a sign identifies your brand for consumers. 

It took Coca Cola 14 years to become associated with its bottle shape. They advertised extensively till consumers recognized the brand through its bottle shape alone.

When a brand is educating consumers to recognise its unique shape, it will be difficult if competitors are using similar shapes. That’s where a patent or design registration comes into its own. 

Coca Cola introduced its unique bottle shape in a bid to tackle competitor copying. It wanted a bottle that even illiterate consumers would recognise as a Coca Cola bottle. So, Coca Cola secured a design patent when it first introduced its bottle shape.

Design rights and patents serve a useful purpose in keeping competitors at bay as you build recognition among consumers. But such IP rights only last a finite period.

The ultimate goal is to secure a trademark because trademarks last forever. They don’t expire. That is, provided you continue to use and renew them every 10 years.

Trademarking a colour is more challenging because colours are a way of decorating things. They're not normally "signs" by which consumers recognise a business. And there is no interim protection available over a colour to prevent competitors using the same colour.

Cadbury's journey to secure its colour mark (mentioned in my 2012 blog: 'Can you Trademark A colour? Cadbury Secures the Rights to the Colour Purple') has been a long one.

The company has had to fight Nestle through the courts. After its success in 2012 Nestle successfully challenged Cadbury’s colour registration. But in 2022, a High court ruled that Cadbury could secure a trademark for its specific purple colour Pantone 2685C. This is likely the end of the story in the UK. 

IP rights are powerful when used in combination with your brand strategy. Aligning brand and IP strategies is essential if businesses are to achieve the best outcomes when creating their brand.

Do you have an aligned brand and IP strategy? If not, Get Brandtuned is a new service that supports you to address brand creation and brand protection together.