Blog Ondernemers

Protecting your brand, design and idea in 6 questions

Entrepreneurs | 16 April 2020 | Written by Frederik Dhont

Registering a company name or a trademark are important steps when starting a business. But why is this protection so important to your company?

Protecting your brand, design and idea in 6 questions

People usually say they are bad at remembering names. However, when asked to list as many products, services and companies as possible, they will list countless names that are ingrained in our daily lives.

It just shows that naming is incredibly important, especially in our economy. But why is that?

1. The use of names?

Seeing or hearing a name evokes emotions and recognition. For example, Tomorrowland is reminiscent of party and friends, while Delvaux reminds you of luxury leatherware. And if you want to buy chocolate of the best origin, might you not also rely on the name?

Secondly, naming is necessary to distinguish people and things from each other. Just think of the misunderstandings when you are with someone bearing the same name as you. Or the confusion if two competing stores in your area were to be called ‘Super Shop’.

2. What is a trade name?

You would rather avoid such confusion if you have given your business a name because it takes effort to build brand awareness and a good reputation. This banner under which your company participates in trade is called the “trade name”. You are automatically entitled to this name by being the first to use it publicly and continuously. However, for reasons of evidence, it is recommended that you register it with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (KBO/BCE).

Then, supposing that you are the proven first user of the trade name ‘Electro Loco’, you can prohibit a competing electrical company from using it later. But you will have to demonstrate that customers are baffled and that you are harmed. So, if your competitor is only active outside your region, you will not be able to prohibit the use of names. The more limited your use, the less your protection.

3. What is a brand?

This is different if you officially register a brand name. A trademark registration gives you, for a fee, an exclusive intellectual property right that allows you to immediately prohibit anyone from using the said trademark. The protected area is the entire Benelux, the entire EU or a specific country, depending on which type of registration you choose. The standard protection period is 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely, though not for free.

And a brand registration also offers advantages over a normal trade name. A brand enables you to protect not only company names, but also specific products and services against counterfeiting. Moreover, a brand does not necessarily have to be an acronym: logos, images and shapes are also perfectly protectable. Which brings us to the protection conditions.

4. Which protection conditions?

The main thing to check is whether your brand has a sufficiently ‘distinctive character’. In other words, your brand name must attract attention and indicate which company the products or services come from. The name ‘Elektro’ and ‘Affordable’ for an electrical store, for example, do not meet this, because they are purely descriptive. But ‘Elektro’ could be a good brand name for a line of clothing.

Secondly, also check whether there are no identical (or similar!) trademarks in the official Trademark Register for the selected goods or services. If you do not do this research thoroughly, you risk existing trademark holders challenging your registration and losing the registration fee. An experienced advisor can assist you in this.

  • Tip: xxx

  • 5. Protecting a design

    Unfortunately, reality has it that products are counterfeited. Certainly as a small designer, it can hurt when a competitor (almost) copies your product and markets it cheaper, while you have made the investments instead of them.

    To take action against this, you can register your designs as a ‘drawing or model’. Like a trademark registration, this is not free, but you get strong exclusive protection in return when copies of your product are sold, rented, imported, exhibited, etc.

    You can register 2D and 3D designs as long as they are new and have sufficient character of their own. The protection period is 5 years and can be renewed up to 4 times to a maximum of 25 years. Again, you can choose a Benelux model, an EU model or an international registration.

    6. Protecting an idea

    Do you have an idea for a design, prototype, business model, song, (film) scenario, format, etc.? Then you automatically acquire the copyright. Only you may make these works public and reproduce them. In practice, however, this right proves meaningless if you cannot prove on which date your creation existed.

    You can therefore consider an i-DEPOT, in which you can truly register all kinds of ideas under strict secrecy. You pay €35 for this and in exchange you receive a certificate of the registration date that is valid throughout Europe.

  • Tip: Securex customers can request a discount code for submitting their i-DEPOT

  • Have you recently created a Facebook page, website, brochure or packaging for your company? Then a trademark registration may be a useful investment. This way no one else will walk away with the proceeds of your efforts. And as a designer or creative person it is also important to protect your creations properly.

    Do you have any further questions about registering a company name or depositing a trademark?
      Ask one of our experts