Preview: Charity Law Conference - Rebrands plagued by lack of legal checks

Charities are putting funds at risk by carrying out major rebrands without making basic legal checks first, the conference will hear.

Lawrence Simanowitz of Bates, Wells & Braithwaite will reveal examples of costly intellectual property mistakes charities have made.

He will say it is not unusual for charities to engage brand agents, set up focus groups and even go so far as designing stylised versions without carrying out trademark and common law searches.

In one case, a major charity website initiative had to be renamed because the domain name infringed a registered trademark. And in another, names recommended by a branding agent to a social enterprise could not be registered as trademarks, meaning that other bodies were able to use them.

Branding agents should know better but often don't, he will say. "Charities must recognise that their brands can be worth hundreds of thousands, or in some cases, millions," Simanowitz will say. "There are commercial organisations out there that can benefit significantly - often at a charity's cost - if charities don't take basic protection measures."

Christian Aid, which Simanowitz cites as an "exemplar of good practice", will present some of its experiences at the conference.

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