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How to protect your NFPs brand

Often the most important asset of a Not-for-profit is its brand. This is not limited to other’s perception of the Not For Profit but includes things like trade names, domain names, logos and trade marks.

These are all part of what is known as intellectual property (IP) and it is often this IP that has the most value, both to the Not For Profit’s vision, mission, activities and business and to the future sustainability of the Not For Profit.

There are a number of ways that a well-informed Not For Profit can protect its brand:

  • Develop a Brand Use Policy. A well drafted policy should establish the approach to managing the Not For Profit Brand, the procedures and standards that should be applied when representing and promoting the Not For Profit, a process for dealing with the inappropriate or unauthorised use of the Not For Profit’s brand and visual identity, and provide a mechanism for management, monitoring and review of the Brand.
  • Develop Guidelines for Usage of the Not For Profit Brand. The guidelines are simply the rules by which the Brand may be used. They may incorporate how the Brand should be visually displayed and how not to display the Brand and who the guidelines apply to.
  • Audit and manage the Brand.
  • Assign a person the role of Brand standard/ambassador.
  • Integrate Brand protection/ management into Strategic Plan and Business Plan.
  • Ensure your Brand is distinctive and does not infringe another’s Brand. Choose your mark carefully because not all marks are entitled to protection. Generic marks (ie. the common name of a product or service offered, for example NETBALL for netballs), or descriptive marks (those describing a feature, function, quality, characteristic, use or user of the product or service offered), marks that are common surnames, geographically descriptive marks, national symbols or scandalous marks are generally not protected. Ideally before a trademark is chosen, the mark should be searched and cleared for availability.
  • Register your trade mark/s. Register the Not For Profit’s name, logos, slogans with IP Australia. Although registration of the Not For Profits marks is not required to obtain and maintain trade mark rights, it can be extremely helpful in enhancing and enforcing them (and reduce costs in enforcing tem).
  • Register your domain name as a trade mark. Obtain domain name registrations for all available names you plan to use.
  • Ensure you maintain registration of the Not For Profit’s trade marks and domain names.
  • Monitor for impermissible use of the Not For Profit’s Brand, including trade mark. Enforce your rights where necessary. This does not always mean you institute legal proceedings but may be as simple as sending a letter to cease and desist. Do periodic Web searches.
  • Prohibit use by third parties use of the Not For Profit’s trade name or trade mark as an account name or avatar (ie., a user or account holder’s representation of itself, or the alter ego whether in the form of an image, symbol, icon, logo, username, or text string)
  • Ensure you licence/consent to use of your Brand. Whenever the Not For Profit permits other to use its Brand, whether that is its members, chapters and other affiliated organisations, and others, it is imperative for the Not For Profit to put strict conditions and limitations on the use of its Brand. Failure to do so can carry the risk of losing trade mark rights, create liabilities for the Not For Profit, damage the Not For Profit’s reputation and goodwill etc.
  • Use copyright and trade mark notices. Use copyright notices (e.g., ©2013 NFP Association. All rights reserved.) on all works published by the Not For Profit and trade mark notices on all trademarks owned and used by the Not For Profit (e.g., TM for unregister or pending marks and ® for registered marks)
  • Make sure you own or have a right to use your IP. Ensure that the Not For Profit owns or has the permission to use all IP (e.g. text, photos, videos) that it uses in publications, on its website, or another other media.

Extra Resources

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