Register your trademark before it is robbed
Trademark can protect manufacturers and service providers' brand and prevent others from abusing it but not until it is registered. Companies could incur huge losses if their intellectual property ownership was robbed because it is too hard for customers to find out the brand originators.
Tracy Mak, who has her design of toy products selling on Facebook and Instagram, did not register the trademark at the first time and lost her business because another online seller stole her design. Her design was being used by a businessman on TaoBao, who was her original customer and preemptively registered the trademark. “I think the one who stole my design has found out that the production of by-products (to be sold) on the TaoBao would be more profitable. So, he terminated our cooperation,” said Ms Mak.
In the end, Ms Mak lost her business which was valued more than one million Hong Kong dollar. “I have no proof to hold him liable for it since there are so many pirated products online, which makes it hard to catch them and get back my trademark rights,” she added.
Ms Mak pointed out that it is so hard to decide who she should seek help for. “When you discovered that your designs or products were reproduced and sold online like TaoBao, should you seek help from the Customs or sue him through lawyers immediately? Both ways are in a waste of money and time so will not be the best choices for your business,” Ms Mak said.
Hoyle Chan, the founder of his own designing shop, admits that trademark registration is harder to work in the Internet Age. Mr Chan has run his designed brand on Instagram for about 3 years, said that it seems to be not easy to have own brand nowadays, “The Internet is too developed nowadays to prevent your band name, logo, or even design from being stolen if you do not register for the trademark,” said Mr Chan.
For lots of customers not knowing how to distinguish between real brand and “fake” brand. Mr Chan also pointed out that it will be difficult to trace the real founder. “I have experienced that the whole brand name was stolen by others, while it is not an easy job to take back the trademark rights, which is required to give lots of evidence and (time). Finally, I have to create a new account on Instagram,” Mr Chan said.
It would be easier to calculate your gains on the social media, for example, on the Instagram, people may look at the number of followers to determine how successful the business is, Mr Chan said.
The most serious issue for the "fake" brand is that it stole the brand name from the originator and confused the public. "If the quality of service (provided by) the fake brand is not good, it will affect your brand inevitably,” he added.
Dr. Alfred Tan, the Head of Knowledge Transfer Office of Hong Kong Baptist University stressed that trademark registration is like a racing competition. “Even though the original design of a product is from you, if there is somebody who registered it as his trademark, you will have nothing to say,” said Dr Tan.
Dr. Tan suggested that designers should depend more on the Copyright Ordinance, which can protect them more than the trademark registration. “In trademark registration, there is only one trading product can be registered as your trademark. So even (if you) register your logo on one of your products, others can still use your logo on other products, which do not conflict with the legislation of trademark registration,” Dr Tan added.
《The Young Financial Post 新報人財經》
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