There are worldwide examples of shoe and clothing manufacturers that repeatedly design their products to resemble the Hummel brand as much as possible, and if the company fails to keep abreast of what is going on in countries as diverse as China, India, France or Norway, its brand may be diluted and business could be lost.
“Navigating a business environment like that can be a real challenge, and it may have severe consequences if we don’t manage to file objections against trademark applications that would infringe on our rights or against companies making unauthorised use of our name,” says trademark specialist Dorthe Sillassen, who has been with Hummel since 1986.
Peace of mind in all types of cases
Back then, there were not nearly as many infringements as today. However, a lot of the companies that held Hummel domains at the time tried to get money from the company for returning the rights. Or companies registered trademarks very similar to Hummel’s iconic chevrons in other parts of the world.
“When that happens, you risk ending up in a very difficult position. In such a situation, we were unable to bring goods into France, and we ended up paying a fair few millions to buy back the trademark,” Dorthe remembers.
That would never happen today, because Hummel is staying on top of its trademarks by relying on Patrade for advice, its international trademark strategy, enforcing its rights and, ultimately, resorting to litigation.
“These days, we own all domains used by our customers, and we manage to put a stop to most trademark cases before they reach the litigation stage. Needless to say, having a partner who can give us the peace of mind we need in all types of cases is immensely important,” says Dorthe.
A professional yet personal dialogue
This might be if a supplier agreement needs to be terminated prematurely. Or an objection against a trademark application. In China, for example, a lot of companies use every trick in the book to make bad faith applications for trademarks that resemble Hummel.
It may involve domain cases where the Hummel name is used on fraudulent websites, such as www.hummeludsolgt.net which appears to offer expensive Hummel products at a 70 per cent discount.
Instead, consumers receive fake Nike products, if they get anything at all. There may also be cases where Hummel’s designers want to explore new ways of using the iconic chevrons, the challenge then being how much you can “stretch” your design without impacting either the brand or the trademark.
“Dealing with issues like that is all part of the joined-up support and service we get from Patrade, which also extends beyond trademark cases. This makes for a lot of confidence in our communication, because when you buy a service, it’s the people you’re dealing with, rather than the company,” says Dorthe, who particularly appreciates having a sounding board and business partner who is able to advise in many specialist areas and always choose the right solution based on extensive knowledge of Hummel.
“Patrade cares as much about our business as we do, and they always choose the solution that works best for us. I feel our business is in good hands,” she concludes.