This month, we will focus on helping small businesses achieve success in branding. Check back each Monday in March for a new blog post discussing legal issues that arise in branding. Every day, check out our social media channels for quick legal tips on branding.
Starting a new business or launching a brand can be exciting. Brand or branding is a hot topic these days. Your brand represents what the public thinks about your business. You can consider your brand as your business’s reputation in the market. Most business owners know that having a “good” or marketable brand can make or break a new business.
Starting a new business or launching a brand usually includes three preliminary steps: choosing a name, designing a logo, and creating a website. All of these steps have their own legal challenges that small business owners should take into consideration.
What to learn more about what goes into making a good brand? Check out our course: Designing Your Brand. Click here to register for the Webinar.
Choosing a Business/Brand Name
When I started my first business, I had a hard time coming up with the right name that accurately represented my product but also my brand. My company, Imani Unlimited, sold costume jewelry but our mission was to empower women to live life with unlimited faith. Imani is Swahili for faith and combined with the word “Unlimited”, perfectly embodied what I wanted the public to think about my business. Prior to using my business name, I conducted research to ensure that no one else was using the name to sell the same or similar products.
To avoid legal issues when choosing and using a new business/brand name, conduct research to make sure that it is not already in use by another business. Although you can pay for sophisticated search companies, we suggest that you start with a simple Google search. If someone has a name that is the same or similar to the one that you plan to use, re-think your new business/brand name. Using the same or similar name as another business could result in a costly legal battle to determine who owns (and can use) the name.
Want to learn how to create a unique and attractive brand? Register for our course: How to Set Your Brand Apart from Competitors, click here to register for the Live Class in Atlanta or click here to register for the Webinar.
Designing and Using a New Logo
When I started Imani Unlimited, I paid a friend to design the logo. My friend designed the logo for free. I used the logo on my website, business cards, and packaging. As I started to sell my products online, I noticed that other businesses were using an image that was a part of my logo. I suspect that my friend used a stock photo from a paid website when she created my logo. I am so grateful to my friend for creating my logo for free because I certainly didn’t have the funds to hire a graphic designer for an original design. However, when a potential customer sees my logo, I’m not sure that the customer automatically thinks of my business and not the other businesses who use the same image.
When creating and using a new logo, you want to make sure that your logo stands out and can be distinguished from all others in the marketplace. To avoid legal issues when designing and using a new logo, perform a simple google search (try google images) to make sure that no one else is using your logo. If you are using a graphic designer to create your logo, pay attention to your contract with the designer. Make sure that the logo your designer creates is an original work and not a stock image with a few changes made to it. If your designer uses stock images, make sure that your designer has the proper license (think: royalty free or commercial use) to use the photo. Also, make sure that your contract addresses who owns the logo and any intellectual property rights in the logo. Intellectual property is a complex area of law and it is advised that you consult an attorney.
Creating a Website
For Imani Unlimited, I used a template from an e-commerce website. The only photos on my website were photos of the jewelry that was for sale. For many small businesses, however, their website includes different types of photos. There are usually photos that appear on the website pages or blog posts.
The sole purpose of your business’s website should be to promote your brand. To avoid legal issues, don’t use another business (or person’s) images on your website unless you have permission. If you are asking a person for permission, we suggest that you get it in writing. You can also use stock photos by purchasing a license or using photos that have a free commercial use, public domain or royalty free license. Do not find images online and begin to use them without obtaining permission or a valid license. Using another business or person’s protected images could create brand confusion and open your business up to a lawsuit. If your business has hired a designer to create your website, make sure that the designer has obtained a valid license to use the photos on your website. The requirement to have a valid license for photos can be negotiated and included in your business’s contract with the web designer.
What to learn more about how to communicate your brand to the public and media? Register for our course: Establishing Your Brand in Media and the Community. Click here to register for the Live Class in Atlanta or click here to register for the Webinar course.
Starting a new business or launching a new brand can be exciting. Keep in mind the legal issues discussed in this article and you will be well on your way to branding success.
What to learn more about what goes into a good brand? What to learn more about what goes into a good brand? Register for our March live classes and webinar courses on branding by clicking here.