India Brand Equity: How Companies Can Effectively Use Intellectual Property Rights to Leverage Brand Equity

In India, after the boom of mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s and the liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, Indian companies realized the importance of managing brands as one of the most valuable intangible assets. . The ripple effect was rapid and by the late 1990s, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India had come to realize the importance of brands and trademarks in business.

The next question among business owners was what differentiates a simple name from a strong brand? A significant advantage of the brand could be, for example, the fact that it has a higher probability of customer choice, which could translate into higher levels of customer loyalty towards the products/services offered by the brand. business entity. As a result, a strong brand normally commands a higher price than competing products/services in the market. Companies were now keen to know more about their brands and their positioning in the market.

Indian markets recognize unique brand equity with the value premium enjoyed by brand owners or business entities. The extreme level of brand recognition is when these unique brand names morph through their extensive use into generic terms, few such examples are JCB for earthmoving machinery, Tempos, Gypsy, Aspirin etc. Additionally, brands tied to distinct core values ​​generate long-term brand positioning and strategy in correlation with the business entity. Ultimately, a strong brand is the foundation for building long-lasting and profitable assets, making “brand” intellectual property the company’s most important property.

To benefit from the enormous potential of a business, it is imperative that the brand owner recognizes, secures and appreciates their legal rights to their brands. Registration of different types of intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents, designs, and copyrights, among others, can secure exclusivity or ownership to prevent others from reproducing an intellectual property.

Assessing a company’s presence in the global market as well as its future objectives is essential today when applying for the registration of intellectual property rights in a trademark. Although filing applications directly through each country’s national registration system and paying fees to lawyers in each country is an option, in most cases the budget will not be sufficient to cover all the available protection imaginable. or sometimes a mark will not necessarily be associated with a single IP but with a plurality of IP forms to protect its various components. For example, brands like Apple, Ferrari, Coca-Cola, which represent a set of forms of intellectual property, including several protected word marks, many protected graphic signs, trade dress, different combinations of essential elements of composite marks, shape marks, etc. , prioritizing and determining what offers the most value in terms of aggressive IP protection is necessary.

That said, forming a brand is the first step in brand management. Many new products fail because their producers fail to generate a brand name that reminds consumers of the product’s availability or that makes consumers think the product is useful, desirable, or simply superior to similar offerings.

It could be the result of something as simple as choosing a brand name without a corporate identity. A good brand name can make or break the success of a product. Finding the perfect brand name for a product/service or entity, on the other hand, is a daunting task for the owner or corporate lawyer. It starts with a thorough examination of the product/service, its benefits as well as the target customers and markets and, last but not least, the company’s vision and values. A good brand name stands out for its uniqueness, connects with the general public, is easy to remember and leaves no room for confusion with other existing brands.

Often, the assessment of an entity’s rights to a trademark is interpreted differently depending on the facts of the case. Owners should be aware that simply applying for registration of a similar mark in a different class of goods or class of services may not suffice and the court may still be of the view that the mark may confuse customers with a mark already registered in the same class. In United States Polo Association, Inc. v. Polo Ralph Lauren USA Holdings, Inc., the USPA moved its use of the double rider mark, previously only on apparel, to use in connection with fragrances. The Court noted that consumers may believe that USPA products are actually made by Polo Ralph Lauren. Based on this, an order was issued barring USP A’s use of the double rider logo or the word “polo” in connection with fragrances.

Therefore, branding is not only about developing a brand strategy, but also about protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. In the event of an infringement, a common remedy is to impose a penalty to prevent the unlawful use of the similar mark in a misleading manner as well as to award damages to compensate for the loss caused by such an infringement. In order to build a powerful brand, intellectual property rights registration and brand management are essential.

Trademarks, copyrights and trade dress are all effective strategies for increasing the potential value of a brand. Also, prompt and vigorous enforcement of all intellectual property rights by pursuing legal action against any party attempting to misuse or exploit the intellectual property for its unfair advantage. After all, the courts also see how vigilant an owner is about their IPs, and therefore the trademark owner who actively defends their trademarks and does not allow anyone to use the trademarks without consent will also have a better chance of success. against future offenders. Finally, companies developing their brands and overall reputation also need to be aware of how brands are promoted and presented in the market vis-à-vis competitors. Simply having registrations as trademarks, copyrights, patents or designs, while essential, may not be enough in today’s competitive markets. Therefore, it is necessary that the image of brands and companies be considered as a composite reputation and that every effort be made by owners and councils to identify brands, protect, popularize and enforce all IPs by constantly evolving innovative means.

Shrimant Singh is Partner and Khushboo is Partner, S&A Law Offices.

(The one-stop destination for MSMEs, ET RISE provides news, views and analysis on GST, exports, finance, policy and small business management.)

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