How are you trying to change the world?

2023 May 12, 2023
intellectual property

Many of us are driven by a mission to change the world in some way.

I want to foster greater business success by teaching lawyers, marketers, and designers the brand protection and branding skills they’re missing to deliver the holistic service that brand related work requires.

When you have a 360-degree view of a subject like brands, your perspective changes. You give guidance and advice that clients need but don’t know to ask for.

I’ve spent the last 10 years learning about branding. My journey included setting up the Brand Tuned podcast so I could interview experts in the industry and learn from them. I’ve read and skim read hundreds of books about brands, and written 3 books, the latest one Brand Tuned. And I’ve attended numerous courses on branding, and brand management. Before that I did a master’s degree in intellectual property and spent years working as an IP lawyer including in large international organisations like Reuters and Eversheds.

My experience as an IP lawyer who has taken the time to learn about brands from the perspective of the branding industry, tells me that IP lawyers and commercial lawyers would deliver better support to their clients if they picked up the skills they’re missing – namely about what brand strategy and branding involve.

Both branding and brand protection involve a lot more knowledge than people realise when they’re not steeped in those disciplines. And that’s the crux of the problem. Lawyers think they know all they need to know just because they understand brand protection. They don’t appreciate how beneficial it would be to their work to learn about branding too.

And similarly, designers and marketers believe they know all they need to know about branding and that they know enough about brand protection already. Yet I know that anyone involved in business design and branding needs a much better grasp of IP than most marketers and designers have.

IP is central to branding because when you create a brand you create intellectual property. It’s the way to manage competition and ensure your choices of name or other identifiers are legally sound. IP is one of the 3 main disciplines that impact business design and branding, the other two being marketing and design.

I strongly believe that changing the way businesses are designed, protected, and managed would result in fewer business failures and increase success for organisations.

What led me to this mission was setting up Azrights, my law firm, in 2005. As a law firm owner, I soon discovered the multitude of problems small businesses were experiencing around IP due to their own and their branding advisers’ lack of awareness of aspects of intellectual property (IP).

Marketers and designers, I came across often knew much less about IP than they needed to know to support their clients with branding. And most lawyers I speak to are appalled by how little marketers and designers know about IP. It’s difficult to fathom how professionals who create intellectual property for their clients could know so little about IP.

This can mean they don’t provide the guidance their clients need but don’t know to ask for. For example, business owners rarely do sufficient due diligence on their name. Anyone serving small business clients should know this, and alert them to the risk of using a name that hasn’t been properly checked out.

According to a report in 2020 by Compumark, a Reuters company trademark infringement is rising year-on-year. If these large companies with their inhouse legal teams are not managing to avoid infringing on other people’s trademarks, you can be sure this is far from a theoretical risk for small businesses. The difference between the two size of organisation is that trademark infringement won’t destroy a large business, but it could annihilate a small one because they don’t have the resources to recover from setbacks requiring them to rebrand.

Doing a trademark search is simple to learn to do properly. I teach it on my Brand Tuned program, not to replace the use of lawyers, but because I think it’s an essential skill for designers and marketers to have. Such a search should be the first step before designing a client’s identity or doing search engine optimisation work. The name contains the value of a business after all. It’s the single most important intellectual property a business has. It contains all the associations that cause customers to buy its products and services.

Learning IP fundamentals is not about intimately understanding the minutiae of the law. You don’t need to be a lawyer to point people in the right direction.

Consider plugging the gap in your skills. I’ll shortly be offering a branding course for IP lawyers so they can increase their skills in branding and deliver a more comprehensive service. Commercial lawyers would benefit from doing a different course though because they need to learn about the IP aspects of branding.

I firmly believe all 3 disciplines involved in branding and brand protection work would be better equipped to support their clients if they adopted a multi-disciplinary approach to their work. It’s not enough to just read a book or two here and to watch a few videos there. There’s a lot more to it than that. Richard Susskind touched on this in his book, the End of Lawyers. The branding world would certainly benefit if there were more hybrid lawyers with deep skills in both brand protection and branding.

I’ll be discussing this more with newsletter subscribers in the future. If you want to get further information on this sign up to the Brand Tuned newsletter.