Out-Law Analysis 4 min. read

Ireland’s tourism body offers case study in effective brand strategy

Wild Atlantic Way Ireland view

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The importance of having a dedicated intellectual property (IP) strategy was demonstrated recently by a tourist body in Ireland.

Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, published its report on the economic impact of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ – a report that should spur other organisations to consider how they can make the most of their brand and other IP.

What is the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’?

The ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ is Ireland’s longest defined coastal route, and one of the longest defined tourism coastal routes in the world. It spans 2,600km in length and winds all along the Irish west coast from the town of Kinsale, County Cork in southern ireland to the Inishowen peninsula in the north. It was launched in 2014 by Fáilte Ireland.

A recently published report by Fáilte Ireland on the economic impact of the Wild Atlantic Way has found that the route is worth more than €3 billion per year in tourism revenue to communities along the western coast of Ireland, with about 35,000 jobs being created. It is considered Ireland’s “most popular region”, with just over half of all domestic tourism revenue generated there.

Fáilte Ireland’s chief executive Paul Kelly has described the Wild Atlantic Way as a “fabulous piece of branding”. Planning and having an effective IP strategy helps the body realise value from that brand.

Role of IP in growing a business

In today’s competitive business landscape, developing a strong brand is crucial for businesses seeking long-term sustainability and growth. One essential aspect of brand development is the protection of the company’s brand by way of trade mark registrations.

Fáilte Ireland first registered the brand, ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ as a European trade mark (EUTM) in April 2013, before the route was launched in 2014. The EUTM consists of the words ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ and a ‘zig-zag’ symbol which depicts Ireland’s jagged coastline. By filing an application before launching products or services under that brand, Fáilte Ireland minimised the risk of a third party making pre-emptive filings for its brand that would have given them priority over and acted as a barrier to Fáilte Ireland obtaining a trade mark registration as well as allowed the third party to ride on the back of Fáilte Ireland’s future success.

Given the demonstrably lucrative nature of the tourism industry on the western coast of Ireland, and indeed the Wild Atlantic Way itself, there is no doubt that this was a wise move by Fáilte Ireland. Considering how many individuals and businesses are involved in tourism activities along the Atlantic coast, this was a strategic and crucial move by Fáilte Ireland. Having an effective IP strategy ensures that IP adds value to the business.

Other benefits to owning registered IP rights

There are other benefits to owning a registered trade mark, including being able to use the registration to combat infringers, minimising risk by appearing on trade mark searches, as well as the registration being cited by certain national trade mark registries during the examination phase of a third party trade mark application. It also gives rightsholders access to takedown procedures.

Owning a trade mark registration also entitles the owner to oppose applications where a third party seeks to register marks that are identical or similar to their registered brand. Fáilte Ireland has successfully defended its brand at the Irish Intellectual Property Office by opposing applications filed by parties who have sought to register marks that were similar to their registered right. Such steps are necessary for Fáilte Ireland to protect the reputation of and its substantial investment in the brand.

Importance of having an IP strategy

Alongside its registered rights, Fáilte Ireland has a set of guidelines which details how its registered mark must be used by approved third parties in marketing materials. This is an example of an effective IP strategy in action.

Having an IP strategy and communicating that strategy across the business and beyond ensures consistency in approach and in the handing of the IP.

As a consequence of Fáilte Ireland’s proactive approach to the protection of its brand, it has become instantly recognisable and associated with the western coastal of Ireland by locals and tourists alike.

What should Irish businesses do?

It is important that Irish businesses have an effective IP strategy to ensure that their most valuable asset is protected in the early stages and beyond. To get started, businesses should:

  • conduct an IP audit – carrying out such an audit will help the business identify the relevant IP rights as well as understand how these rights can add value to its business strategy. It will also go some way to revealing whether the IP rights require some work in order to support the business strategy;
  • protection – following the IP audit, the business can determine whether any of the IP rights can be registered and if such IP protection adds value to the business and supports its business strategy. Even if the IP rights cannot be registered, certain steps can be taken to protect them;
  • exploitation – when IP protection has been secured, a business can consider ways in which they can exploit the IP rights by way of license arrangements or through collaborations with third parties.
  • defence – an IP strategy will be rendered ineffective if the business does not monitor its IP rights as well as address any unauthorised use by third parties when they arise. It is imperative that a business has effective monitoring strategies in place which are communicated throughout the business.

An IP strategy provides a solid foundation for IP in businesses, enabling its IP to evolve and adapt as the company expands and its goals change. It will also add value to the business. The strategy should be communicated throughout the business and made part of its onboarding protocol for any new employees. Furthermore, all aspects of the business should buy in to the strategy, thereby ensuring that the IP strategy is effective.

Failing to identify and protect valuable IP rights can result in lost business opportunities as well as competitors taking advantage of a company’s hard work by copying its IP, thereby damaging its brand.

Co-written by Hannah McLoughlin of Pinsent Masons.

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