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Plagiarism And Unfair Association By Competitors

The world of business is an inherently competitive one and it can be a struggle to make your brand stand out from the crowd.

The unfortunate truth is that the more successful you are at creating a strong and distinctive brand, the more likely you are to be the target of unscrupulous competitors trying to unfairly leverage the strength of your marketing for their own purposes.

In these circumstances, intellectual property law can come to your assistance and it is worth bearing in mind your options in this regard.


From a marketing perspective, you will own the copyright in any text or designs you create as part of your marketing materials. If you should pen a sparkling paragraph which enthusiastically captures the essence of your brand, only to see a competitor use the same wording on their website, leaflets or brochures, it is likely that the competitor in question will have infringed your copyright.

As long as the text or design that you have created is your original work, you will own the copyright in it automatically. There is no need to register copyright in order to have the right to prevent people from copying your work.


If you have a distinctive brand and particularly if you have amassed a certain amount of goodwill in your business name or logo, it might be worth considering obtaining a trademark.

Acquiring a trademark is a surprisingly affordable option and provides you with an increased level of protection from other businesses looking to muscle in on your brand’s space.

Trademarks provide you with stronger rights to prevent other businesses from using your marks or using similar marks in the same business sectors that you operate. It helps you to ensure that you brand remains distinctive and undiluted and allows you to continue to build the strong reputation associated with your business.

Passing Off

If your logo or business name is not trademarked and a third party is unfairly associating themselves with your brand, all is not lost.

The common law provides owners of unregistered marks with the right to bring an action for passing off to prevent another business from unfairly attempting to align with it.

Passing off is often relevant in circumstances where consumers would be confused into thinking that goods or services offered by one company are the goods and services of another company or where customers may be fooled into thinking there is an association between two unconnected companies.

If a competitor releases marketing materials that are so similar to yours that you feel your customers may be misled into thinking there is an association between the two businesses, you may be able to make a claim for passing off.

Your Brand is a Valuable Asset

Arguably your brand is your biggest asset. It is how your customers pick you out of the crowd of competitors and it is the accumulator of all of the goodwill you have amassed in providing a great service.

Allowing competitors to draw unfair associations to your brand or allowing them to plagiarise your marketing materials is allowing them to steal some of that goodwill from you.

It is worth remembering that there are legal options available to you in these circumstances and your brand is something worth defending and strongly as any tangible property.

If you have any concerns about your brand being misused or you would like to take steps to obtain a trademark, Fosters Commercial team would be delighted to assist you. Please feel free to contact us using the Email Us link above or calling our Norwich office.

This article was produced on the 5th January 2017 by our Business & Commercial team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.