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Getting ready for an exhibition? BEWARE: they have eyes on your designs

Article provided by Adams & Adams

Are you protecting your designs and ideas from prying eyes when you’re at a trade show?

“Wow, cool design!” said the stranger, “do you mind if I take a picture to show my friends on Twitter?” Michael* was flattered. It was his first year at a local design expo as an up-and-coming creative and the opportunity promised to open new avenues for his clothing range.

The strength in his product lay mainly in the unique patterns combined with hand-drawn grunge elements. He was looking especially forward to the much-hyped “Buyers’ Day” – a chance to secure large orders from local and international retail decision makers.

He didn’t know it yet, but the familiar click of the friendly visitor’s smartphone would herald the beginning of Michael’s legal woes. Michael had an excellent show, and secured two lucrative orders. He was excited – until a few weeks later when he received a frantic call from one of his new clients. “Michael, are you sure this design is yours? Have you secured your rights?” asked an agitated voice on the line. “My colleague has come across the same design in Johannesburg, and the person swears it’s an original idea.” The client threatened to withdraw her order, unless the design was guaranteed.

Unfortunately, Adams & Adams regularly receives calls from designers who have had their ideas or designs stolen or copied. The route to protecting your rights after the fact, rather than before, will always prove more costly and time-consuming.

So what can you do to protect your work?

No photos please!

Your display is not exactly a National Key Point, but you can still forbid the taking of photographs at your stand. Someone will always try to copy your work. It’s not an unreasonable request.

Film what? Sign this please

Did someone ask to film you at your stand? Ask them what it’s for. That’s your right. You can refuse if you’re concerned that the risk is too high, but consider also that you may need the publicity too.

After big buyers? Be prepared

Large buyers want guarantees. They’ll want to know about your intellectual property (IP) and whether you have protected it with either a trade mark, copyright, patent or as a registered design. Consider that the cost of investing in decent legal assistance before the show, and securing your rights, could be your best decision ever.

Can you afford not to? Your IP is your livelihood. Don’t squander it. If a buyer approaches you, and hands you a thick wad of legal documents, don’t sign anything until a lawyer has checked it. We can assist you with all the business aspects of IP.

Trade mark your things

Are you using a logo, business name or even a signature which represents your brand, but you are not sure how to best protect it from the prying eyes of competitors. Your answer? File a trade mark application.

A registered trade mark (amongst other types of intellectual property) can provide protection for your business name, logo, signature, and even a shape or container for your goods, and as well as your services.

The primary requirement is that your mark must serve the purpose of distinguishing your goods and services from those of others in the trade.

The best way to protect your mark is to apply to register for the specific goods you make, or the services you render. Please arrange a consultation with us to handle the nitty-gritty of the trade mark registration process or come and chat to us at one of our offices. In the meantime, make sure that you use the ™ symbol next to your brands. This simply creates public awareness (i.e. warns third parties) that you are the owner of that mark and that their use of the same or similar trade mark without your permission would encroach on your rights.

Adams & Adams is there to help you with any of your legal requirements.

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Adams & Adams is a proud Partner of the NSBC.