A leading intellectual property expert in Gerrards Cross has warned business owners of the importance of registering their trademark after helping an Amersham-based company protect its identity when it was threatened by another business.

In January 2015, Downing IP, in Gerrards Cross, assisted Andrew Fleming, CEO of family owned and run company Seasons Catering, in protecting his business trademark.

The company had assumed that as they had been trading for more than a decade without any problems, all was well – however, Downing IP advised Seasons Catering to secure the rights to the key word that defined its identity – ‘Seasons’.

Ten months after filing the registration, a company with a head office in India applied to register a UK trademark including ‘Seasons Catering’ for itself, so Downing IP approached the company’s UK representatives, pointing out their client’s registration of the name ‘Seasons’ and its use as ‘Seasons Catering’ and they withdrew their application.

Michael Downing, of Downing IP, said it is “really common” that business owners overlook registering their trademark.

He said: “We do see plenty of people who come to us because someone is coming too close to their brand identity and they want to stop them, and then we ask if they’re registered the mark and they say “no”.

“Sometimes that’s because they never got round to it, sometimes they didn’t know they should. Either way, they’re on the back foot from the start. If we can help them then we do, but those cases are always more difficult and expensive.

“The worst case is that you might lose the right to the trade mark and have to re-brand your business. I’ve seen this happen, and people get quite upset.”

Michael’s top tips for business owners

“There are a couple of top tips for people around intellectual property which are easy to put down and just need a little thought from time to time to make sure things stay in good order”:

• Your trademarks are a big asset of the business. If you haven’t registered them, do it now.

• Things change. If you registered your trade marks a while ago, then your business might have developed since then. Check the registrations to make sure they cover the trademarks you’re using now, for the products or services that you’re selling now, in the countries where you’re trading today.

• Stay alert. If an employee or colleague comes to you because they’re really pleased with something they’ve thought of, consider patenting it. Most patent attorneys won’t charge for an initial consultation, so you can find out if the idea is patentable and what’s involved before you run up a bill.

• New products and new lines should always be a trigger to think about intellectual property. Generally, the earlier you file applications for IP rights, the better. Work an IP check into your business process for new products so that you don’t miss the boat and you don’t accidentally infringe someone else’s IP.

• Use a professional. I know, I would say that, wouldn’t I. But we know what we’re doing. You can do it yourself, but it will be quicker and could be more cost-effective to use us.

Visit www.downing-ip.uk for more information.