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Intellectual Property Revolution

If names are chosen without involving a trade mark expert, the business is at risk of losing out

Intellectual property lawyer Shireen Smith provides advice

In May 2015, a House of Commons briefing report on UK business reported that service industries account for 73% of businesses, 79% of employment and 70% of the turnover of the UK’s economy. As a significant proportion of businesses in the service industries provide knowledge-based products, intellectual property (IP) law is more important than ever before. The currency of service-based business is information and know-how rather than physical assets, and success relies on the exploitation of knowledge.

A brand name is one of the most fundamental aspects of a company’s identity and value. Leading IP lawyer and founder of IP specialist law firm Azrights Shireen Smith believes that branding agencies who create names – alongside designers and advertisers who support brand identities – are missing out by not integrating with an IP specialist to ensure that the brands and identities they help their clients to create are sound from an intellectual property perspective and potentially valuable.

“If names are chosen without involving a trade mark expert, the business is at risk of losing out. The loss isn’t necessarily always apparent. A poor choice of name relative to the business’ goals can lead to a constant loss of value or difficulty in securing registration either in the UK or in other countries.

“Although most agencies are savvy enough to avoid a choice of name that legally infringes on someone else’s rights, sometimes the business itself might have chosen a name that infringes. The owner of the business may assume they can have whatever name they like, regardless of whether someone else has better rights to the name.

“This requires the branding agency or other adviser to be able to explain to the client that this is a foolhardy approach. It’s important that all stakeholders who meet businesses in these early stages have sufficient knowledge about IP. Alternatively, they should have access to lawyers who will be able to alert the business to the importance of respecting other people’s IP right. They should also do thorough due diligence, using a trade mark expert before proceeding further with brand designs.

“Otherwise, as soon as a new business starts up the business owner might receive notice that it is infringing on another brand. This can have serious consequences for those that have invested significantly in their branding and search engine optimisation. Sadly for some, they don’t have the time or resources to overcome such a setback.

“For businesses who have established themselves, rebranding is hugely disruptive and can have an adverse impact. They are unlikely to be able to redirect to a new website, and will have to change marketing materials, get a new logo, business cards, and start over with a completely new name.”

The later in a business’ development a rebranding takes place, the more damaging it can be. Shireen Smith continued:

“Although not as a result of legal proceedings, the Symantec rebrand illustrates how difficult it can be for a company to establish itself with a new name.

“Symantec, the technology company which provides security software, reportedly spent $1.28 billion in its rebranding of VeriSign authentication technology to Symantec. The Symantec rebrand was part of a global rebranding of all of its products which has since seen a huge slump in its share price.

“The Symantec case illustrates how rebranding is not only expensive but also it can put a business at a significant disadvantage because consumers may lose the association and loyalty to the brand and its presence in the marketplace may falter.”

On the evening of Tuesday October 13 at the Institute of Directors, Shireen Smith launches a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy. It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here:

Useful links:
Azrights website:
Azrights on YouTube:
Azrights on Twitter:


About Shireen Smith:

Shireen qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and began to focus on IP, IT, trade marks and copyright as an in-house lawyer at Reuters in the late 80s. She has extensive practical experience of intellectual property and technology law and solid academic credentials, including a Masters in Intellectual Property law from QMW, London University. Shireen is consistently praised for the depth of her expertise and pragmatic, accessible advice.

Having developed a good grasp of the IP issues relevant to blue chip companies, she then applied that knowledge to working with start-ups and SMEs once she founded Azrights in 2005. Her company’s website is here:

Shireen has written many articles and is also author of the bestselling book, Legally Branded, which was published in 2012. It is a text book feel about it. It has several 5 star reviews on Amazon, and offers accessible information on IP and internet law to business owners. Shireen frequently speaks at events for entrepreneurs, branding professionals and lawyers on intellectual property, internet law, trade marks, domain names, and other brand matters.

Photographs available on request. Journalists are welcome to attend the event. Numbers are limited, so please apply early. For further information about Shireen Smith and her new book please contact Tina Fotherby on 07703 409 622 or or George Murdoch on 07834 643 977 or at Famous Publicity.

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