There is value in the “look and feel” of your company. Make sure to protect it!

Interview with Clara De Schryver, IP Attorney at Calysta

In today’s knowledge-based economy clients need to be aware that there is value in the “look and feel” of their company, and that having an effective IP strategy is not just about filing for registration once in a while, but also about monitoring and protecting what is already theirs. Read the full interview of Clara De Schryver.

Clara, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you became an IP attorney?

I studied at Ghent University and obtained my master’s degree with a special focus on company, financial and EU law. After five years in Ghent I went to Brussels to specialize in IP law and to obtain my master-after-master’s degree. After six years of studying in Belgium and having my head in the books it was time for a change of scenery and I made the temporary move to Alicante when I was accepted as a trainee at the OHIM (now the EUIPO – the Intellectual Property Office of the EU). After my first real working experience in Spain I knew I wanted to be an IP professional. Before joining CALYSTA I worked in one of the biggest IP firms in the Benelux as a Trademark and Design Attorney for close to five years.

At CALYSTA you mainly advise clients on trademark and design protection. Why are these services important to clients and their organization?

In today’s knowledge-based economy clients need to be aware that there is value in the “look and feel” of their company, whether this is a start-up or an already established (multinational) company. The way in which a company presents itself on the market through the use of names, logos, imagery and product design plays an increasingly more important role and it is my (and our) job at CALYSTA to make sure the client understands the need to protect these intangible assets because they can be an important part of the client’s innovation and function as a “badge of origin”.

Why should clients protect the “look and feel” of their company?

It sometimes takes considerable funds to select that name, logo, and communication style that is just right for your company and its values and vision. The name of products and services or the appearance of a product can be a key factor in a company’s communication and marketing strategy. Some rely more on product design (e.g. Bang & Olufsen), others on creating a strong trademark (e.g. Milka and its consistent use of the color purple). Protecting the “look and feel” of the company through IP rights such as registered trademarks and designs means protecting your investments in creating that corporate or product identity. Creating a strong brand that allows the public to easily distinguish your products or services from those of your competitors does not happen overnight and it would be a shame if after those investments competitors could use similar names or product appearances which could cause confusion among the consumers, and which could negatively impact a client’s sales.

In what way can CALYSTA play an important role for clients?

We raise awareness about the value in IP and the need to protect it. To me it is surprising to see how sometimes bigger and more established companies neglect to seek adequate protection for key brands. Perhaps because they are not aware of this void or because they (erroneously) don’t see the need for IP protection via for example registered trademarks and / or designs. I help clients to get rid of (sometimes major) gaps in their IP portfolio and work with them to define the best route to protection by determining if this is still possible and identifying “what, when, how and where”. Besides managing existing IP portfolios I also assist or represent clients in those cases where they actively need to prevent others from using their IP without consent. Having an effective IP strategy is not just about filing for registration once in a while; it is also about monitoring and protecting what is already yours!

How can CALYSTA help clients protect their IP after registration?

Clients need to be vigilant when it comes to their (registered) IP and be aware that this can fluctuate in value over time. Increasing the value of your IP often takes time and a considerable amount of investment, and so it is up to you to make sure that this value does not decrease due to a lack of proactivity or reactivity on your part. We at CALYSTA offer our clients tools to proactively monitor the registers, e.g. through our watch service we send them alerts when someone else is trying to obtain protection for a name or sign that is similar to their trademark and we advise them on which actions they can and should take (like filing an opposition). Of course not all IP infringement is visible in the register. So for cases in which the damage is already being done, e.g. there is confusion amongst your costumers because some other company is using a similar name for similar products or services, we also advise on how to react against this use and assist or represent the clients in their mission to put an end to the