Business opinion: Branding through Intellectual Property Rights

BY FARAI CHIGORA As our entrepreneurial drive grows, we become highly connected to our brands, as they become the main link to our markets and the source of goodwill that leads to increased profitability and viability. A brand becomes a thermostat and a gauge of SME success in this instance. And no one can steal […]


As our entrepreneurial drive grows, we become highly connected to our brands, as they become the main link to our markets and the source of goodwill that leads to increased profitability and viability. A brand becomes a thermostat and a gauge of SME success in this instance. And no one can steal or destroy our existence as growing brands at any moment (in the near or distant future).We must protect these brands through trademarks with unparalleled zeal at any cost. Imagine the road we’ve taken to get to this point where the world now knows us by our name, our brand supreme, and everyone wants to work with us as legends who have touched countless lives. There is a need to continue and improve on such capital. On the global market, we have developed our own unique logos, emblems, colours, jingles, and other features as representatives of quality and novelty (we should continue with this dominance).

It is imperative to remember that when success follows our brand management we are likely to be attacked by brand predators to destroy our goodwill and decimate that traction as a means of escalating their own success. They do so with the goal of eroding our market dominance and eradicating our brand ownership. This can’t be for my resourceful co-founders/workers. Though it has been obvious and observable that such issues have contributed to the demise of some of our SMEs. When their distinctive idea/popularity is stolen, their hard-won brand success and desire for brand longevity through unique visibility vanish suddenly.

We need to protect our brands against such predatory exploits. Suffice to make this issue of protecting our brands the focus of this edition, to discuss critical issues towards brand protection. This is when we take a serious look and invest in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for sustainable brand management for and by our SMEs. To start with there is a need to develop our own trademarks to accompany and protect the brand(s) so that we remain on top of the game. The positive brand publicity and attraction that we have today should continue tomorrow and forever. This even takes us back to our foundational discussions in the previous editions where we emphasised that a brand is what people buy and not a product/service. Same with trademarks as they enforce by protecting that uniqueness so as not to be imitated or become generic to expose the formula behind our product/service against any competition.

What makes a trademark for an SME more effective is that it becomes legal so as to protect the business from any brand theft. Your business idea and the representing brand(s) are your Intellectual Property Right and hence they should be protected through registration and licensing such that you enjoy the same fruits throughout the business life cycle from the inception and beyond your existence as the owner (sustaining originality in creation into generations). That is why there is no other Coca-Cola since 1886. Imitations can be there, but the brand and its origination are forever protected (there is a need to now start the process by engaging professionals in this area).

It does not matter which sector or line of business anything can be a piece of Intellectual Property Right. From a painting to a song, a book or a code (copyrights as the IPR). For trademarks they are there to explicitly protect the tools we have developed and applied for our commercial purposes and for this discussion for the branding of SMEs businesses (what are you waiting for).

This then gives you total control over your brand as you decide whom other should use it and when you should sell that brand or transfer it for use by any other (brands can generate their own revenues too). When granted a trademark you will then own a license and the right to arrest anyone who uses or imitate your brand without approval.

We have heard many stories of people writing songs that will make others more popular than them or business ideas that will be overtaken by those supposed to be only brand managers or SMEs employees (this is a serious matter). There is power in Intellectual Property Rights in this age of entrepreneurship. That is for our SME brands to be immortal in our own hands and always for us up to the end of our own inspired destiny. Therefore as advice, the entrepreneur should register a trademark to protect the brand. Besides being able to take legal actions against any infringement of your brand a trademark will also improve the attractiveness of your brand in your targeted global markets.

This is because your target audiences trust your brand because the trademark will shield them from any lies or misrepresentation. It indicates the brand will become more legitimate with time, indicating the minimised risk(s) linked with its usage. We addressed various categories of hazards that a brand can reduce in earlier editions, ranging from psychological to financial risk (food for thought here). Another consideration is that once a trademark is registered, it can be transferred to other products/services you develop in the future as a brand extension both within and outside your present country of business. Which I refer to as global dominance through Intellectual Property Rights. In this sense, the trademark will become more of certification for real business that can also attract venture capitalists and other forms of partnerships for the SME’s growth. As a reminder, the most attractive/strongest trademarks are those that have managed to differentiate themselves through unique crafting locally and beyond what many can see (so do the same). I will leave you to think about this as a tool for success by our SMEs in this promising age of industrialisation through entrepreneurship.

  • Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His Doctoral Research focused on Business Administration (Destination Marketing and Branding Major, Ukzn, SA). He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.

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