Protecting your products and ecommerce brand

Protecting your products and ecommerce brand

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I want to talk about Juni haemorrhoid cream. More specifically, how I want to stop it from ever becoming a thing. The same applies to Juni offensive bumper stickers, Juni kids’ knuckle dusters, and a whole host of other inappropriate products.

When you’re preparing to launch a new product, you need to put measures in place to protect it. Whether it’s piggybacking on the brand name, ripping off the product itself, or some other form of mischievous profiteering, people will go to town on anything that doesn’t have the right protection in place.

Ever bought a poster outside a music gig or an unofficial scarf outside a sporting event? You’ve got direct experience of how people can make money by attaching themselves to strong brands.

In this post, I’m going to share:

  • The different ways of protecting your product
  • How I’m protecting my brand
  • Alternative methods of securing product protection

Ways of protecting your products

I’ve got a bit of a head start here. I’ve been through these struggles in a previous role. In my old job, I didn't have a clue what was important about trademarking, why patenting was required, or how to approach either of these things.

Juni being the brand name of an ecommerce finance platform doesn’t necessarily give me the protection I need for my products. That means I need to find the best way of protecting my intellectual property (IP): the aspects of my brand and the products that I have a claim to.

I did a course in 'Intellectual Property for Product Design' (my former job being more design-focused), which helped get me up to speed on the basics of product protection, including:

  • Patent
  • Trademark
  • Copyright

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and don't have formal legal training, so anything written here does not constitute legal advice. If you think anything written here applies to your business, I highly recommend you first seek legal advice from your lawyer or other legal professionals.

Let’s look at each of the options in a bit more detail:

Patent

A patent protects a product, process, or method that is new and inventive. You need to apply for a patent. But you can't patent something that already exists or has been described in a publication. And you can't patent something that is an obvious change to an existing product.

Trademark

A registered trademark gives you protection over words, sounds, logos, colours, and any combination of them. You can’t trademark anything offensive, misleading, common, generic, or non-distinctive. Trademarks are split into different categories or classes of product and service types. You need to apply for all of the classes in which you want protection.

Copyright

Copyright gives you protection for original written, musical, dramatic, artistic, coding, software, databases, recording, and broadcasts. It is automatically applied when you create original works.

How does it work where you are?

Keep in mind that all of these things work slightly differently depending on your legal jurisdiction. GOV.UK provides a great overview of UK law, Europa.eu discusses how IP works in the European Union, and this Forbes article gives more detail on the US system.

There is no such thing as a global trademark or worldwide patent. Services like The International Patent System provide resources to check on existing patents around the world. But for your protection, you’ll need to make local applications in the jurisdictions that make sense for you.

How I’m protecting my products

How can I keep my products safe? How can I ensure that if my store becomes a raging success, the market isn’t flooded with knock-offs? These might sound like lofty ambitions, but it’s far easier to plan for these things now than when it’s too late.

As I’ve mentioned before, my first store will be a line of clothing developed exclusively for Juni by Full Circle Clothing. Given that I’m not the inventor or creator of my products, trademarking is the best way for me to go.

In the UK, I can register Juni for a clothing trademark for £180. But do I want to pay extra fees to register trademarks in classes I won’t be using to stop competing Juni products?

Alternative product protection

Obviously, you want all the protection your legal jurisdiction can provide. But that protection only keeps you safe to the extent that people are caught and prosecuted for infringing your IP. The ease with which you can pick up the aforementioned unofficial merch should give you a clue to how hard it is for even the biggest brands to protect themselves.

As a result, I’ve been thinking about ways of securing additional protection for my brand. Here’s what I’ve come up with…

Building a community around your brand

The main benefit of building a brand community is that it creates loyal customers who will help your business to grow. But it might also have the knock-on effect of creating a network of people willing to go into battle with rip-off merchants to support you.

Customers who are passionate about your brand will be vigilant on your behalf. Create a link on your website for reporting infringements to make it easier for them.

AI DMCA takedown notice software

Automated Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice software helps you to cut out lengthy legal battles by going straight to the web hosts of those infringing your IP.

The software is usually free or cheap compared to the headaches you would otherwise face. Instead of chasing up infringements, you simply apply to have the offending pages removed. This saves a lot of time and allows you to focus your resources on other things.

Emailing a lawyer

Sounds like an expensive tip, doesn’t it? But an initial consultation (which is what a reply to your email should amount to) is often free. Send an email to a lawyer specialising in IP in your jurisdiction to get their take on your situation.

In the previous job I mentioned, when I was struggling to get my head around these things, I spoke to a trademark lawyer. Her advice contained helpful tips that steered me towards patenting and trademarking the brand for use across different products.

Make your questions specific and spell out the precise nature of the protection you need. You want to get a reply that goes beyond the sort of general information that’s available online. 

Keeping track of your images

If someone’s ripping off your brand, there’s a good chance they’re using your images to do it. Keep tabs on where your images are being used. I’m using Pixsy, which will ping me if any of the images I’ve uploaded are reproduced on another site.

Using NDAs

As ecommerce startups, sometimes we have to let people into our secrets to get anything done. By using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), you can limit the risk of someone pinching your brilliant brand or product ideas.

Start protecting your IP

I don't like dealing with the legalities of my store. If I could throw the problem at something or someone else, I would. But these are issues that can undermine your entire business, so it’s something you need to get right.

My advice to get started today is:

  • Build your understanding of the best type of protection for your brand and products
  • Have clarity on the level of protection you have and under which laws
  • Get free initial advice from legal experts
  • Automate the process of finding and removing IP infringements
  • Use NDAs when sharing confidential information about your brand

What protection do you have in place for your products? Let me know any methods I’ve missed by sending me an email to community@juni.co.

Protecting your products and ecommerce brand
Stephen Bourke
Ecommerce Store Manager

Stephen has over 4 years of experience running businesses and assisting entrepreneurs with Shopify stores. When he's not setting up shop, Stephen enjoys a good board game with his husband and friends. He's known for trying adventurous vegan cuisines.

Download our free whitepaper and gain important ecommerce and marketing insights, directly from Juni.

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Juni will not share your information with any third parties except for our verified partner network. Submit your email for even more valuable content, delivered straight to your inbox.

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