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Re-branding a Business: Look for the Silver Lining

Just like physically moving a business, re-branding a business can be a long and painful process. This analogy came to mind largely because we just recently moved to lovely new offices near the St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque. Perhaps more pertinently, the name change being planned for the Washington Redskins football team brings the re-branding conundrum into the consciousness of many.

I grew up in Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University of the Mid-American Conference. When I was little, their team name was the Miami Redskins. However, at the urging of the Miami tribe (now in Oklahoma) the school got around to re-branding much earlier (1998) than the Washington Redskins, and settled on the Miami RedHawks, with their mascot being Swoop the RedHawk.

From a legal perspective, before you re-brand, we generally recommend that you speak with an intellectual property attorney to discuss the role trademarks could play in your new brand. You may be able to protect each name and distinguishing feature of what you sell with a registered trademark. However, before you commit to new product names or logos, consider commissioning a trademark search to avoid names and designs that are already being used by other companies.

On July 14, 2020, CNN reported that one individual registered a number of trademarks associated with the Washington Redskins franchise. Although CNN noted that that man offered the marks to the team for free, this is a unique example of researching logo/name use before settling on your new brand design.

While the re-branding process involves a lot of time and expense, you can take advantage of the opportunity to generate a buzz around your business, which can result in both better retention of existing customers and the acquisition of new ones. A great example of this strategy is the local restaurant initially called the Double Rainbow® changing to the Flying Star® Café in 2000. This was necessitated by needing to grow beyond a negotiated restriction on the number of locations with the Double Rainbow® ice cream shop in San Francisco. The owners did a great job of reporting the change to local media, and got a significant amount of free advertising from news stories reporting on the change.

A more recent example was the 2019 brand change by the non-profit microlender, Acción New Mexico, to DreamSpring®. They also did a fabulous job of getting the word out about the change, as well as designing a logo that really hit the intersection between the new name and the services provided.

So, in short, if you are faced with the need to re-brand, you can also view it as an opportunity to further advertise the great things about your business. Please call our office or speak to another qualified attorney if you would like to discuss intellectual property strategies that could help you protect your company's brand.

Post by: Jeffrey D. Myers, M.S., J.D.

Disclaimer: These materials are designed as a general overview and should not be relied upon for legal or tax advice. Please consult a qualified attorney and/or tax advisor for compliance and up-to-date information and advice specific to your circumstances.



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