Comment and warning to clients: protect your name

Head of IP, Maninder Gill

I have just been asked to comment by a trade magazine on yet another entrepreneur finding himself unable to use his name as a brand after losing control of the company that owned the Trade Mark.

It’s crucial to protect your name (and sometimes your likeness as well) when starting an eponymous fashion label or restaurant, just like Chanel, Jimmy Choo and Gordon Ramsay did. By registering your name as a TM, you obtain a monopoly right to use your name for the products/services registered under the TM. However, if you lose control of the owner company via a sale or insolvency, then you may inadvertently also lose the right to use your name for any new business. This happened to both the designer of Princess Diana’s wedding dress, Elizabeth Emanuel, and Karen Millen, founder of the eponymous fashion brand. Employed prominent designers thus often do not allow their name to be associated with their employer’s brand, for example, Tom Ford while at Gucci and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen.

If you choose your name as the brand, consider owning the TM personally. If your company is sold, then you will still own the TM, which the purchaser will obviously insist on acquiring to extract maximum value from its investment. You can then negotiate a suitable licence with the purchaser for its use.