Branding has a very important role to play in any industry. However, it is crucial in the fields of life sciences, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and also precision medicine which, by its very nature, is personal. For this reason, brand names in these areas should resonate with people (think ‘hearts and minds’).
A brand name that speaks positively to the public will help you to earn consumer loyalty and trust in what are extremely fast growing and competitive industries. It is also particularly important that trade marks in these fields are selected with care owing to the potential implications of confusion arising if one brand were to be mistaken for another.
This article discusses some of the key recommendations when it comes to branding and trade marks with a particular focus on the fields of life sciences, healthcare and precision medicine.
From a marketing perspective it can be tempting to choose a brand name that describes your product or service because it can eliminate the need to inform consumers what your product or service actually does. However, brand names of this nature are impersonal and extremely unlikely to resonate with patients.
It is also very difficult to own these brand names effectively, because the trade mark authorities are generally reluctant to allow any one entity to monopolise descriptive terms (on the basis that they should be free for all to use). Choosing a distinctive brand name (i.e. a word that alludes to the nature of the good/services, or that is totally made-up) will allow you to stand out in what is an extremely competitive environment. It will also help avoid costly (in terms of lost business) and potentially dangerous instances of consumer confusion. Finally, you should find it easier to take action against copycats and others looking to trade off the back of your reputation if you have chosen a strong, distinctive trade mark as opposed to one that is generic or descriptive.
Once you have a brand name in mind, you should establish whether it is free for use before you commit to it. To do this, in addition to conducting the usual Internet searches, you need to conduct a thorough search of the trade mark registers to see whether there are any third party registrations for the same brand name, or a confusingly similar one. A chartered trade mark attorney can assist you with this. If there are any potential issues, it is better to address them as early as possible – so that you can alter your brand name, or choose a new one, before it becomes prohibitively expensive to do so. It is important to bear in mind that ownership of a company name does not give you an automatic right to use that name in commerce.
Trade marks can exist in a registered and unregistered form.
Unregistered trade mark rights rely on common law rights, known as passing off. These exist where you have been using a name or sign and have become well-known. However, it can be difficult to show that a particular mark is recognised as being your trade mark.
Given the fast moving nature of these sectors and the potential consequences of public confusion arising, it is important that you are able to move quickly to shut down others using your mark a similar one in a confusing manner. If a trade mark is registered, there is no need to prove you own it; giving you a strong tool to use against others who might use something similar.
Given the importance of building trust in these sectors, it is important that you act quickly when instances of confusion arise, or better still, you are able to prevent them from arising in the first place. Monitoring the trade mark registers for applications for conflicting brand names will allow you to object to confusingly similar applications and prevent them from registering. You can also seek to prevent those brand names from being used on the market, or for use to cease if it has already begun.
To summarise, choosing the right brand and policing it effectively is vital in the fields of healthcare, life sciences and precision medicine because it will enable you to build trust in your brands in industries where trust is clearly of the utmost importance.
Adopting and following a sound trade mark strategy is the best way to ensure that your brands are adequately protected and that you are in the best position to take action against those that would seek to trade off the back of your hard earned reputation.
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