Name of the branding game

Peter Matthews explains how Nucleus has boosted its branding offer with the acquisition of an intellectual property specialist

It is debatable how much protection was actually provided by branding your cattle in the unruly years after the American Civil War, but with the emergence of federal and local government, and the legal enforcement of individual’s property rights, economic success became linked with the predictable rule of law.

During the past few decades, the output of Western economies has shifted from ‘physical’ property to ‘conceptual’ property as manufacturing, then services, moved steadily eastwards to lower-cost economies. Products and services that generate value but require little physical input are now the way forward for Western economies, placing a new emphasis on the value of ‘intellectual’ property.

As you would expect, branding has also expanded on its initial role of identifying the manufacturer of physical property to representing the actual value of concept-based, intellectual property.

As a branding consultancy, we have been creating conceptual property for more than a quarter of a century. These concepts are essentially intellectual property, which we sell to our clients in return for fees or, increasingly, licence for an agreed period. The value depends on how effective and original the concepts are, and whether they can be legally protected using trademarks, patents, design rights or copyright.

Intellectual property is a lot easier to steal than physical property, particularly in the age of the Internet. This growing link between ideas, brands and intellectual property is the reason why Nucleus has just acquired Hallmark IP, a leading UK trademark attorney and intellectual property specialist.

This move offers us many more opportunities than simply expanding in our own niche. It has created a new and powerful brand consulting platform upon which we can advise our clients on brand IP matters throughout the IP lifecycle: from strategy to conceptualisation, searches, registration, enforcement, licensing and even on to divestment or acquisition of an existing IP.

It’s a move that has raised a few eyebrows, but I see the rationale as compelling in today’s economic environment. For instance, on a practical level, we win a lot of brand name creation projects. Typically, these are fast-track programmes, where distinctive names need to be created, filtered for availability, shortlisted and registered, all before the brand systems are designed.

Anyone who has been involved in these projects knows how nerve-wracking they can be, with potential failure to secure the favoured name candidates an ever- present possibility. So, with the joint capabilities of Nucleus and Hallmark, we are integrating the whole process to increase speed, expand choice and reduce risk for our clients.

The benefits are manifold and may even change the way we approach creating new names for brands, given that thousands of usable registered names lie under-used (but still cost money to maintain) in large companies’ asset registers. So, from now on, as well as our name creation outputs, we will also have access to existing intellectual property assets, such as bundled registered trademarks and Internet domains that could be assigned or acquired at short notice. This will expand our clients’ choice and provides practical, registered alternatives to the excruciating brand name compounds of Latin prefixes and suffixes, which are often so derided by the press.

Another area is the application of intellectual property rights to information technology and the Internet.

Earlier this year we published the findings of a research project we undertook in the on-line travel sector. The research showed that more than 50 per cent of the 125 UK companies surveyed were actively trying to intercept search engine searches for their competitors by bidding for the competitors’ names in pay-per-click advertising.

One of the first services we will be launching with Hallmark is a search engine advertising ‘watching service’. This will alert our clients to trademark infringements on-line.

Western economies are going to have to use innovation and creativity to maintain growth and compete with developing nations, while protecting their intellectual property. By bringing ideas, brands and intellectual property rights together, we believe we are defining a new model for brand consultancies.

Peter Mathews is managing director of Nucleus

Nucleus’s new Brand IP services include:

• Integrated cradle-to-grave Brand IP advice and services

• Brand IP audits and due diligence

• Integrated brand and product naming, registration and protection services

• Acquisition, licensing and divestment of Brand IP assets

• Internet watching services

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