Taking on the World...Taking Your Brand Global.

After attending a fabulous intellectual property law conference in Chicago last week, I started thinking about Canadian designers who are looking beyond our borders for success.  What information can CanadaFashionLaw bring to these designers?  Today, we’re thinking global! 

In the fashion world, it’s a global world.  Surprisingly, the luxury goods market has been buoyed despite the crumbling economic climate in Europe and North America, thanks to the increasing middle class’ purchasing power in emerging markets such as India and China.  Perhaps if you think global you’ll (hopefully) benefit from the different economic climates throughout the global economy. 

But taking your brand globally can be expensive.  The maze of distributors, suppliers, real estate, tax planners etc. expands.  And so do their fees!  Unfortunately, law is no different.  From a brand protection standpoint, intellectual property protection is granted on a country-by-country basis.  (Obtaining trade-mark protection in Europe is slightly different and can be obtained on a regional basis).  Once your fashion line goes global, the Canadian trade-mark registration that you diligently obtained will only protect you in Canada.  Not in the US, not in Europe, not in Japan.  I think you get the point.  But if you’re operating in these countries, you should contemplate seeking trade-mark protection in each of those countries.  Yes it’s cumbersome, complicated and cher, but it is necessary to ensure that your company’s brand, which is the major (if not, most important) asset, is protected.

Think strategically. 
Think sensibly. 
Be budget conscious.  
Do your research! 

Does the market justify launching in that country? 
Is there long-term growth potential in that country? 
Has there been positive response to your clothing line? 

Where there is potential for market presence in a country, adopting a legal brand protection strategy in that country makes sense.  

Now, these are all factors to consider when taking proactive steps to protect your brand.  

What happens when you have a global brand and “it” hits the fan? 

Do you come out like a well-dressed John Wayne ready to sheriff your brand on a global scale? Likely not.  Litigation is not cheap!  A custom-made fur jacket lined with raw silk is likely a bargain compared to the cost of global litigation!  (I do not have or condone wearing a fur jacket and no animal was harmed in the writing of this article). 

One of the seminars at the Chicago conference looked at managing multi-jurisdictional litigation.  Universally, the speakers agreed: the cost of litigating in every country that a company has a market presence is not a smart business decision.  Take, for example, the Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent case.  Both companies are global brands, yet the case is based in the US.  Why? 

Behind every legal action taken by a company, there is a business rationale. 
  • What are the budgetary constraints of the company? 
  • How much does litigation cost in a country?  
  • Which country is a symbolic power-house?  
  • Which country does the brand have the strongest market presence?  
  • Administratively, which country’s legal system has the quickest turnaround for the judge to render the final decision? 
  •  Which countries have the strongest enforcement or damages awards?
Think business.  Think budget.  Think global.  Think long term.