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7 Tips For Sustainable Businesses Building a Trade Mark Portfolio

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Consumers across the world are becoming more concerned with sustainability practices. Naturally, businesses must follow the demand for such sustainable trends, which requires a robust intellectual property portfolio to protect the unique aspects of environmentally conscious brands. This article will unpack seven tips for building a trade mark portfolio for sustainable businesses in New Zealand. 

1. Consider the Importance of Trade Marks in Sustainability

It is important to consider what a sustainable business is. Sustainable businesses prioritise: 

  • environmentally friendly business practices;
  • social responsibility; and 
  • ethical considerations when developing and delivering goods or services. 

Such businesses often emphasise transparency regarding their sustainability efforts as well. These businesses require a strong trade mark portfolio to protect their unique identity in the market. Trade mark protection assists with protecting the unique identity of a business by helping it distinguish itself in an oversaturated marketplace. In this sense, a trade mark represents the brand’s values and commitments. 

For example, consider the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Patagonia is strongly committed to environmental activism, which is reflected in its name and logo. These trade marks reflect Patagonia’s values and protect its brand identity.

2. Conduct a Comprehensive Brand Audit

You must conduct a comprehensive brand audit before building your trade mark portfolio. This involves assessing all elements that contribute to your brand’s identity, such as its:

  • logos;
  • slogans; 
  • product names; and
  • packaging. 

You must identify the distinctive elements that best reflect your commitment to sustainability and protect these with a registered trade mark. 

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3. Align Your Trade Marks with Your Sustainability Goals

You must integrate sustainability into your trade mark strategy by aligning trade marks with your business’ goals. Your trade mark rights are a powerful communication tool that can convey your commitment to sustainability in various ways. For example, this might look like:

  • incorporating eco-friendly symbols into your brand elements; 
  • highlighting sustainable sourcing practices via your packaging or other marketing materials; or 
  • using symbols to communicate your commitment to specific causes. 

This attracts environmentally conscious consumers and sets your brand apart in a market where sustainability is what differentiates your business from others.

4. Choose Distinctive Trade Marks

You should prioritise distinctiveness when selecting trade marks for your sustainable business. This is because unique trade marks are easier to protect and enforce than generic terms that do not stand out in the market.

This both enhances your brand’s recognition and reduces the risk of potential conflicts with existing trade marks.

5. Secure Trade Mark Registrations

Once you have identified the trade marks you wish to protect, you must register them with the IPONZ. Registering your trade marks provides legal protection and exclusive rights to use them in connection with your sustainable goods or services. It also serves as a foundation for building a strong and defensible trade mark portfolio.

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6. Look For Licensing and Collaboration Opportunities 

Sustainable businesses should also consider licensing its trade marks to other businesses that align with its sustainability values. Licensing agreements allow other companies to use your trade marks in specific contexts or for certain goods. This can help contribute to a broader adoption of sustainable practices. 

Similarly, you might also consider collaborations with other businesses. A collaborative approach can enhance your brand’s visibility and impact, further showing consumers your commitment to sustainable practices. However, when forging partnerships with other sustainable organisations, you must ensure that your collaborative trade marks are carefully managed. This is because you must maintain consistency with your sustainability goals and brand identity.

7. Regularly Update Your Portfolio

Finally, it is important to understand that sustainable businesses often evolve and expand their focus areas. You should regularly review and update your trade mark portfolio to ensure it aligns with your business strategy. Updating your trade mark portfolio might involve:

  • registering new trade marks for product launches;
  • changing existing trade marks to reflect changes to your branding; and 
  • ceasing the use of trade marks that are no longer relevant to your brand or suit your trade mark strategy.

Key Takeaways

Businesses have had to respond to consumer demand for sustainable practices, which requires a robust trade mark portfolio to protect the unique aspects of environmentally conscious brands. Some key tips for sustainable businesses to build a trade mark portfolio include:

  • considering the importance of trade marks and sustainability;
  • conducting a comprehensive brand audit;
  • aligning your trade marks with your sustainability goals;
  • choosing distinctive trade marks;
  • securing trade mark registrations;
  • looking for licensing and collaboration opportunities; and
  • regularly updating your trade mark portfolio.

If you need assistance building a trade mark portfolio for your sustainable business in New Zealand, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

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