There’s no value to you or your client if you come up with an idea that can’t be used because it infringes the rights of others. In fact, this is likely to be costly — so you need to do (or get someone else to do) a trade mark search before you present creations like a new brand name to a client.
Clearing brands for use is becoming increasingly difficult as the number of registered trade marks has increased exponentially in recent times. Searches need to be done early and certainly before any emotional attachment has been created internally or with the client. When branding agencies come to us for help with a new naming project, our motto is “give us your shortlist of names and we’ll make it shorter…”
You should also make sure that your contracts contain appropriate IP protections. Many contracts in the creative sector make little or no provisions for IP rights and while IP can be complex, you’re able to impose at least some controls without worrying too much about the specifics. If you produce a design for a client and that client then uses your design for further creations, you should be earning licence fees for that use — if not, this should count as a breach of contract, rather than simply being seen as your client contravening the spirit of your arrangement.
So recognising your creation of IP and having some understanding of how to enforce your rights is a must.