The trademark landscape is rapidly evolving, shaped by an increasingly crowded marketplace, the number of channels that businesses are operating in, and globalization. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the number of trademark application filings is rising exponentially, with a 30% spike in 2017 compared to the year before.
This rise equates to roughly 9.11 million applications filed. And today, there are more trademarks than ever before – there are currently over 75 million active trademarks worldwide, according to SAEGIS® on SERION®. What this means for marketers, creative agencies and trademark attorneys is that creating and filing a unique trademark across multiple jurisdictions is becoming a major challenge.
In addition, the more marks there are, the more work is needed, and the more complex it is to screen, clear, register and watch trademarks. As part of the brand protection strategy, this requires a significant investment of skills, time and money.
But these processes need to be carried out thoughtfully because not doing them, or not doing them properly, can have severe consequences, including failure to secure a mark, infringing on another organization’s intellectual property, possible litigation, customer confusion and even a requirement to rebrand and relaunch a brand. In addition, it’s also vital to watch trademarks to prevent other brands from infringing on your intellectual property.
Infringement on the Rise
Trademark infringement can have a devastating effect on a brand—whether that’s changing a name, logo or marketing material for a launch, or taking legal action against an infringing mark.
While brands are trying to minimize the impact of potential infringement, it is still on the rise. CompuMark, global leader in trademark research and protection solutions, commissioned independent research into the trademark ecosystem, surveying 352 trademark professionals across five countries and found that 81% of respondents said they experienced instances of infringement in the last year. This is almost a 10% rise from last year’s research where 74% of respondents said they’d experienced infringement in the last year. This represents a massive problem for brands, and the rise in incidents could indicate an upward trend.
Infringement is also not just being experienced across traditional marks, like business and brand names, but also social media names, industrial design, web domains and advertising campaigns.
Consequences of Infringement
While instances of infringement are rising, it is the consequences that have a real bearing on the brand. Almost one-third of respondents (30%) have had to change the name of a brand as the result of an infringement.
In addition, almost three-quarters (73%) had to take legal action against infringements. Legal action can be costly, but the consequences extend further than this. The top three effects of infringement include:
- Customer confusion (52%): up from 44% in 2017
- Damage to brand reputation (42%): up from 33% in 2017
- Reduced customer loyalty and trust (40%): up from 34% in 2017
Technology Stakes a Claim
While acknowledging the challenges within the trademark ecosystem, technology was highlighted as a solution. In fact, 59% of respondents said that better technology would help make the process of trademark research and protection more effective. This attitude was further reflected in the fact that 56% of respondents said technology would make the name creation process smoother.
The trademark ecosystem is changing, marks are evolving, applications are increasing, and infringement is an ever-present and growing issue. There are more marks than ever before, and it is becoming increasingly challenging to search, file and watch a portfolio of trademarks. Better technology can certainly help in mitigating the risk of infringement and being able to properly search and watch marks is a vital component of brand protection. Moving forward, this will be even more important and trademark professionals will need to use all the tools at their disposal to keep brands safe from infringement.