It seems obvious. If you have a new product, you need a new name. That is true, but even that statement is not as straightforward as it appears if you want a truly effective way of coming up with a good brand name for your business. You may have a good idea for a name or visual form of your trademark, but how to trademark an idea is a different question.
It may result from a reactive approach, whereby you wait until a product is nearly ready to launch before working on the idea, but best practice is to be proactive. If you can begin working on a brand name before a product is realized, it will save time and give you space to get the best possible outcome.
Start the Trademark Process Early
That means getting involved with your product teams from the beginning and making sure the legal and marketing functions are engaged in how to trademark an idea. And it is not just about the name – you will need to consider how the mark will be used and whether your chosen name is capable of appearing in the way that you want it to in all the various use cases you identify.
With any new brand, it is a good idea to select multiple potential names at the start of the process. These should be decided based on what the brand is for, which jurisdictions it needs to work in, and how the brand name will engage your customers. Different parts of a business will likely have different priorities for a brand name and visual representation (though they will all want it to be cleared quickly!), and managing those competing desires is part of the process.
Once you have a shortlist of brand names you need to undertake various checks, including:
- Trademark search – This can be done with our global network of IP experts or in-house . It is vital to check the names you want are available and can be protected in the jurisdictions you need.
- Language checks – Think about all the countries in which you plan to use the brand name, and check for meanings in the local language. Companies have made errors in the past by launching brands that have unintended and sometimes offensive meanings in other languages.
- In some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, there may be regulatory constraints on the way you can name a product. Bear these in mind.
- Filing strategy – Identify your key markets and develop a filing strategy that covers how to trademark an idea across the world.
How to Trademark an Idea in Challenging Industries
Companies in some industries face particular challenges with brand names and new ideas, especially when it comes to name creation. In fashion, for example, the life of a particular brand can be very short, and there is no way of knowing how successful a particular collection, for example, is likely to be. As a result, you may need to think about how to trademark an idea in multiple areas at speed.
Not only do fashion companies require a large number of different brands; but they also need to develop them quickly, since new brands may be launched every season. This can put strain on the business since the volume of search required is likely to be high. Having a strategy for how to trademark an idea, and the correct resources, whether internal or external, to support these efforts is key.
Pharmaceuticals is another tricky industry for brand name creation since regulatory requirements often limit what you can do with your brand name. That is because, in addition to the trademark registration, you will also need a marketing authorization from the national regulator in order to market your product. The criteria for gaining marketing authorization are different from registering a trademark, including an assessment not of whether the name is likely to be confused with another mark, as in trademark law, but of whether it is likely to be confusing for consumers as to the drug being sold. Indeed, it may be wise to wait until you are confident of marketing authorization before finalizing your trademark registration for such products.
If you can navigate the potential difficulties of how to come up with a brand name, it becomes a relatively straightforward process. Pooling ideas from the relevant stakeholders in advance of the launch will give you time and options for developing a registration strategy.
How to Trademark an Idea in Several Jurisdictions
Once you know the name or names you want, the key is to identify priority jurisdictions for the brand name to work in and pursue trademark registration in those jurisdictions. Assuming you have conducted effective searches, either in-house or with an external partner like Questel, registration should be relatively straightforward .
That said, the difficulty of registration may vary considerably by jurisdiction, so it is important to prioritize potentially difficult but important jurisdictions for registration and to budget accordingly.
However, there are some pitfalls to be aware of, especially in highly competitive industries. It is important not to fall into a registration gap, where you have protection in some jurisdictions, but not in others. As such, it is worth coordinating your filing efforts to ensure that you file in all key jurisdictions at the same time. A first tranche of registrations for high-priority registrations followed by a second tranche for those that are less important is a good strategy, with those secondary jurisdictions perhaps being those in which you don’t expect to launch the product straight away. However you decide to proceed, this coordinated approach will involve working with local agents, either directly or through Questel who manages the process for you .
Coming up with a strategy for how to trademark an idea can seem daunting, especially given that in many industries, the brand is the root of a product’s value. But with the right approach, it can be a stress-free and productive process.
 Questel does not provide any legal services. Legal services are provided by independent IP attorneys on the basis of a separate engagement agreement between you and, if you wish to, a partner IP attorney firm.