How to avoid the legal pitfalls when rebranding your company

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rebranding your company
The Head of Marketing at a leading plc in the transport industry was telling me about her business' re-branding strategy over dinner recently.

She is new in the post and clearly impressed that the company was committing significant investment of money and time to the project.  Rightly so, because a rebrand is an opportunity to not just change a logo, but to reassert values, re-engage customers and mobilise the workforce through a change in culture.  I was impressed as she described the serious investment from the top down to drive meaningful transformation and instil the desired culture change to transform customers' experiences in line with the brand objectives.  

I've handled the legal side of rebranding and launching new brands for large businesses, and I've noticed that amidst the pressure to get the artwork, livery, packaging and messaging right, it is easy to forget the essential legal issues.  Good intentions aside, even major corporates with huge marketing budgets can get it wrong.

To avoid the legal pitfalls here is a checklist: 

  • Do you own the rights to the new logo/livery?  One international business rebranded, outsourced the creation of the relevant artwork and forgot to obtain a licence or assignment of the copyright in the artwork, which was then sold to a third party, which tried to charge a licence fee for its use.  The business did acquire the relevant rights eventually, but only after an expensive and embarrassing legal battle. 
  • Have you obtained appropriate protection through trade mark registration?  Remember if the logo is changed even slightly, or you start using it on new/different goods/services, you will need to obtain updated protection.
  • Have you considered registered design as a means of protection?  It could add to your armoury.
  • Have you created or reviewed your standard terms and conditions to fit the new way in which you want to do business?
  • Do your employment contracts reflect any new ways in which you would like your employees to work?

A rebrand is a significant undertaking for any business, but with the risks as high as the rewards, it is essential to ensure the right legal checks are carried out and the right protection is put in place, so that your efforts are not destroyed or postponed by legal wrangles that can cause reputational damage and will certainly be a distraction in terms of time and costs.