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By: Charlene Sell
Whether you are running a small local business or a large multi-national organisation, your brand will often be your most important asset.  A distinctive brand is an important way to target and maintain a connection with your chosen market.  By protecting your brand, you can ensure that it remains unique to your business and contributes to strong and consistent brand awareness amongst both your existing customers and your wider target market.

So, what is a brand?  Your brand is anything unique to your business which is used to identify your business and the products or services you are selling.  A robust brand is what sets your business apart from your competitors.  While one of the main elements of a business’ brand is its name, other aspects can be just as important.  Your logo and taglines used in your business can also form part of a strong brand.

One of the most effective ways of protecting your brand is by registering trade marks.  Registration of a trade mark gives its owner an exclusive right to use their trade mark in relation to their business and the products or services that are protected.  Once you have registered your trade marks, your competitors will be prevented from registering identical or similar trade marks.  As long as your trade mark remains registered, you have the comfort of knowing that no one else can use those elements of your brand to piggy back on your reputation. 

Another important element of brand protection is copyright.  Fortunately, in New Zealand, copyright exists in an original work from the time that it is created – which means you do not need to register your copyright to be protected.  However, it can be helpful to show the public that you are claiming copyright protection by using the © symbol on your work.  Copyright in work created by your employees during their employment is also automatically owned by you.
Our fair trading laws provide a further avenue to protect your brand.  Even though those laws primarily protect consumers, they can also help to ensure that your competitors do not deceive or mislead the public by unfairly using your brand. 

Brand protection is an investment that will mean your brand, and the reputation attached to it, is protected from competitors now and in the future.  Safeguarding your trade marks and developing your understanding of laws surrounding the protection of copyright and fair trading will start you on a path to better secure your brand.
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