When brand names go wrong – don’t make these mistakes!

Jul 19, 2019 | Trademark Knowledge

Budding businesswoman Kylie Hughes started to make a real impact on her local scene in Australia, but was forced to re-brand her whole company because she didn’t follow basic trademark guidelines. We detail why things took a turn for the worse, and how businesses looking to register a trademark in Taiwan or elsewhere can avoid the same pitfalls.

What’s in a name?

Kylie loved the Scandinavian flat-pack furniture design made popular by IKEA, which inspired her to start a business of her own.

IKEA Singapore logo

Image by IKEA Singapore by Calvin Teo, Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

“When I was renovating my home, I spent hours looking through glossy magazines and design websites searching for ways to get the same designer looks on a budget. In the process, I kept being drawn to IKEA.”

So she started a boutique furniture business selling her own creations, and decided on the business name Stylkea. Can you see where this is about to go terribly wrong?

Stylkea products

Months into the business, already with a large social media following and making a healthy turnover, Kylie applied to trademark Stylkea. She didn’t see the problem at first:

“I come from a business background, so I am not naive when it comes to this sort of thing and I felt I had done good due diligence.”

She’d seen that other companies operated using the ‘kea’ suffix, such as Mykea, who make custom accessories for IKEA furniture, and kitchen company Plykea, who successfully trademarked their name.

But IKEA wasn’t having any of it when Kylie applied, and sent cease and desist letters demanding she change her business and domain name – basically everything she’d built a reputation on the back of.

Kylie initially decided to fight for her name, but facing huge legal costs, she ultimately decided to comply, changing her brand and domain name, and taking her business a number of steps backwards.

From Stylkea to Lux Hax

Kylie’s new brand after complying with IKEA

What can we learn?

Many creative people who aren’t traditionally business-minded can turn fantastic ideas into hugely profitable enterprises, learning the ropes of managing a business as they go. But there are some things you need business knowledge on from day one, and basic trademarks rules is one of them.

Where at all possible, avoid deliberately using a highly recognized brand name by association when you choose a business name. There is much that can go wrong.

Yes, there were business names trading using the ‘kea’ term in their name. There could be a variety of reasons IKEA hasn’t pursued them. Despite this however, these businesses were sailing close to the wind with such names. It’s likely that IKEA could have had reasonable grounds for contesting these businesses, but chose not to. When choosing your brand name, you don’t want to worry whether a huge corporation will come along and slap you with huge legal fees that can destroy your business.

More importantly, apply to register your trademark as soon as possible, ideally at the beginning. Every day your business grows without registering a trademark, the stakes grow higher, and so do the potential losses.

A business without a trademark is built on house of cards. Give it the solid foundation it needs so that no one can tear down what you’ve built.

Need a trademark?

If you’re looking into the many advantages of registering a trademark in Taiwan or China, we can help. We’ve worked with many businesses to get them setup and protected, and have the local knowledge to easily navigate the landscape. Get in touch and see what we can do for you.

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