Capitalize on the U.S. Market, But Protect Your Brand
Are your brands and valuable intellectual property adequately protected? Retailers entering into or expanding operations in the U.S. access a consumer base which spends more than four trillion dollars on retail goods annually. There are lucrative opportunities for foreign retailers to introduce fresh and innovative brands to U.S. consumers. But retailers who fail to implement brand-protection strategies risk losing market share and devaluing their intellectual property (IP) rights.
Strong brands communicate a retailer’s business and products to the market. Protecting your business and products from infringement, copying, and misuse requires strategic planning, sophisticated legal counsel, and proactive measures:
- Audit your IP portfolio. A current audit and inventory of your patents, trademarks, and copyrighted materials is necessary to understand existing IP rights. This audit will also reveal whether you have additional IP rights that should be protected and developed.
- Identify trade secrets and confidential information. Your IP audit should identify trade secrets and confidential information, and ensure they are adequately protected under state law and in contractual agreements.
- Identify priority risks in your industry. Every retailer has a unique mix of IP-related risk. Counterfeiting, piracy, internet security issues, and confusion created by competitors’ products will decrease market share and harm a brand’s value and reputation. The first step in deploying an aggressive risk mitigation strategy is to identify and prioritize the risks.
- Audit contractual relationships. Brand protection requires appropriate contractual provisions with licensees, franchisees, distributors, manufacturers, resellers, and other partners. These relationships must be monitored closely to ensure that IP rights are maintained.
- Institute rigorous monitoring and enforcement. Brick-and-mortar locations, e-commerce sites, social media, and domain name registrations must be monitored to ensure competitors and scammers are not violating your IP rights. When issues arise, prompt appropriate enforcement measures are necessary to protect those rights.
- File appropriate applications for registration. Patent, trademark, and copyright registrations will protect your IP rights in the U.S. There are numerous benefits from these registrations, including protection against infringement, a streamlined process for securing internet domains and social media usernames, the potential for monetary damages in litigation, and enforcement cooperation with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.
- Measure return on investment. Proactive measures are only worthwhile if they result in measureable returns on investment. Tracking relevant metrics will help improve enforcement strategies and develop competitive market intelligence.
Overall, it is crucial to assess and mitigate risks before entering into or expanding operations in the U.S. market. A proactive approach to protecting your company’s IP rights is more effective and efficient than unfocused reactions to competitors’ encroachment and infringement on your brand.