Candy behemoth Mars Wrigley made headlines recently after announcing their lawsuit against several companies that sell cannabis-infused products and adopted packaging that was all-too-similar to some of their most popular candies, including Skittles and Starburst. A Mars representative stated that they are “deeply disturbed” by the use of copycat packaging for THC products, and the suit is centered around the violation of intellectual property as well as concern that people may accidentally ingest marijuana edibles thinking they are candy.
In this fast-paced and competitive world, knowing how to protect and preserve what’s yours is as important as ever. This lawsuit from Mars Inc. is an effort to do just that. Business owners work hard to build their brand, but without adequate protection in place it becomes all too easy for brand copycats to reap the fruit of your labor. Thankfully, there are many practical ways to protect your intellectual property and ensure that your brand’s image is upheld.
Register Your Trademark And Utilize Patents
One of the best things business owners can do to legally protect their brand is ensure that their trademarks are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. However, it is important to note that highly unique names and titles are more likely to receive high levels of protection, versus more generic ones.
Additionally, if your business is doing something revolutionary, novel or otherwise unique to you, consider getting a patent. Patents are another important part of your arsenal in protecting intellectual property, and they can help stave off litigation and copycats. In both of these scenarios, working with an attorney can help ensure that paperwork is filled out correctly and that you meet the required deadlines.
Protect Your Web Content
Your business’s online presence is as much a part of its brand image as any physical establishment or materials. For this reason, it is integral that business owners not forgot about online content when they think about copyright and protecting their intellectual property. One simple way to protect web content from copyright infringement is by creating an account with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). DMCA is a global leader in digital copyright infringement take-downs, and, once registered, you can even display the DMCA badge on your company website to further deter content theft.
The legal implications of intellectual property theft are vast, but this theft can also do serious damage to your brand image. In the case of Mars Wrigley, there was concern over children ingesting THC products thinking they were candy, which surely would’ve created a PR nightmare for their brand and their products. This is why vigilance and frequent monitoring for content theft is so important. After all, you cannot stop an infringement if you do not know it is happening.
One way to monitor is through keeping an eye on your competitors, however this is often a time consuming and arduous task for businesses who likely do not have the ability to constantly monitor competitor’s sites and materials. Thankfully, IP software exists that can perform this sort of monitoring for you, and you can also seek the help of an Intellectual Property Agent or Patent Agent to ensure you’re protected.
If A Violation Occurs, Work With A Lawyer
In the event an infringement does occur, it is helpful to work with an attorney. The nuances of copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret laws can be difficult to navigate on your own, and an attorney can advise the best course of action for you to take. In many cases, the first steps taken when an infringement occurs is to issue a cease-and-desist letter, or a takedown notice though the DMCA. In either of these cases, you and your attorney should include information about the work that has been infringed, the type of infringement, and the action you want taken.
Protecting intellectual property may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of public relations and building brand image, however understanding how to protect what’s yours is an important tool in your business’ arsenal. Through practical planning and ensuring legal protections are in order, business owners can defend against brand copycats and preserve their brand’s reputation, which contribute to building a positive relationship with your audiences.
Grace Savage is a Public Relations and Content Development Intern at Flackable, an award-winning public relations agency representing financial and professional services brands nationwide. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com.