“Just take a deep breath and do it.”
Rachael Ward of Ward Trade Marks talks about setting up your own business, being an entrepreneur and the role of trade marks in tech matters.
Nothing beats the feeling of being in control of your own life. This is what my husband Bill and I swiftly found out after we started Ward Trade Marks in 2013. You may have to carry on your existing job for a while, your social life may suffer a bit, and you may serve up one too many ready meals, but once you’re running your own business you will never look back.
I’ve worked in trade marks for twenty years, mainly for one of the top law firms in the country as Director of the Trade Marks Group. Bill’s background is in ops management, having been Senior Vice President of Flight Operations at Qatar Airways. We’d always talked of owning our business, and following a move to Suffolk the next step seemed obvious. A short while later Ward Trade Marks was born.
Law as a career was an obvious choice for me, because it’s a fascinating subject and affects every aspect of life. I then specialised in trade marks as it drew together my interest in the law and my enthusiasm for understanding how businesses work. In trade marks you have to be aware of your client’s business, how they operate and what level of risk they are prepared to take. It’s only then that you can shape your advice to them; every solution is bespoke to their needs.
Being trade mark specialists, when we started our business we were obviously well placed to put what we preached into practice. When starting a new venture it’s absolutely essential to protect yourself as much as you can and as early as you can. It’s not expensive to register a trade mark in the UK, but it’s possibly the best investment you can make, saving you thousands of pounds down the line in legal bills. Without that protection you could end up fighting a time consuming, expensive and stressful legal battle, and potentially losing your brand, your customer base and your livelihood.
The other thing to remember is that it’s always best to use a professional who can tell you how to make the best choices in protecting the intellectual property you have. Of course, I would say that, but as I’m sure you’re aware technology is advancing at a faster pace than the law so an attorney that understands both the technology and the legal arguments is invaluable. It’s also preferable to choose someone that you like and can work with (smiles winningly).
I’ve dealt with plenty of tech cases in my 20 years in trade marks (doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?). I’ve been instructed on tech matters across the board, working for entrepreneurial start-ups to multinational corporations. These matters have been across a wide range of telecommunications, cloud computing, software, electronics, social media, Internet, gaming and digital media issues.
I conducted EU trade mark opposition proceedings and drafted a co-existence agreement for the one of the world’s largest social media companies. I’ve also assessed ongoing conflicts for a Californian visual computing corporation, dealt with EU opposition matters for a US electronics company and conducted opposition actions for gaming companies disputing rights to similar names.
In my experience, I’ve found tech companies seek legal advisers that are able to efficiently and quickly resolve their intellectual property issues so that they can focus on their business growth. This has led to me often recommending a fast track EU application which reduces the time to registration, yet costs the same as a routine application.
Getting IP protection in place is also often essential to attract funding and investment, so without our work many businesses simply wouldn’t be here now. It’s this problem solving and going above and beyond that makes me love my job.
A typical day for me usually starts by getting our 8 year old daughter ready for school, and going for a run before work – I’m typically in front of a computer for most of the day so it’s good to stretch the legs. Getting out and visiting clients to review their protection and see whether updates are needed is always a highlight. Our relationship with our clients is a cornerstone of our business and it’s good to spend time with them. Work/life balance is a little skewed at the moment as I’m also studying for a Masters in IP Law, but I can always rely on my daughter to let me know if the mix isn’t quite right!