How to Build a Brand for your Pharmacy Business

by Nick Austen and Gemma Brown

Nick Austen and Gemma Brown, solicitors in the Healthcare Team at Vertex Law, highlight the issues pharmacy owners should be aware of when building their brand.

As with most other businesses, the future for pharmacy may lie in a more customer-focused approach. Customers will have an increasing level of choice over their supplier of medicines and pharmacy services so it is important to build a pharmacy which stands out from the crowd.

A brand may be defined by the combination of features that identifies the pharmacy and distinguishes it from its competitors, including an appropriate company name, logo, corporate style, website content and layout and domain names. These all have an impact on the value and effectiveness of the brand.

The establishment of a brand can be dealt with during the start-up phase of a business but can equally apply to businesses that have been up and running for a long time and whose owners want to protect the reputation of their established brand.

Company Name:

Pharmacy owners may decide to trade the pharmacy through a limited company.  In order to do this the owner will need to decide on an appropriate name for the company.

Searches should be carried out at Companies House to check for company names which are the same or similar to your proposed name. There are also a number of restrictions which are in place preventing certain names being used. It is best to make enquiries at Companies House at the outset to ensure that the name you wish to use is available.

The use of words such as ‘Pharmacy’ and ‘Chemist’ in a company name require the prior consent of the General Pharmaceutical Council, which can take some time to obtain.

You should also carry out domain name and trade name searches on the internet to check that someone else isn’t trading under the same or similar name to the one you are proposing.

Website domain names:

The internet is a valuable advertising tool and many pharmacy business owners use a brochure website to promote their business.

It is important that any domain names are registered in the name of the company and not the website developer. You should also ensure that the intellectual property rights in the content of the website are specifically assigned to the company by the website developer. If there is not a written assignment in place then, even though you have paid the website developer to design the website, the intellectual property rights will legally be owned by the website developer.

You may wish to consider registering a number of similar, misspelled and abbreviated domain names to prevent third parties taking advantage of your brand.

Logos:

A logo is a distinctive mark which indicates that something belongs to a certain owner. A logo can be used on the shop front of the pharmacy, on the pharmacy’s website and on labels and bags used in the pharmacy. If you own a number of different branches a logo will indicate to customers that all branches have the same owner.

The logo will need to have an original design in order to reduce the likelihood of it infringing existing marks used by other businesses. Searches can be carried out on trademark registers to ensure that your logo is distinctive.

Unless you have a registered trademark, you can only use the ‘TM’ symbol (which indicates that it is an unregistered trademark). The ® symbol can only be used if the trademark is registered.

It is also essential that the intellectual property rights in the logo are owned by the company and not the logo designer.

Police and Protect:

We recommend regular searches are carried out to see whether any third party is carrying out activities which devalue your brand, for example, a completely unrelated company setting up a website selling pharmaceutical products which has your logo on it. If you discover any such infringement you should act quickly, otherwise you may be deemed to have consented to the infringement and/or waived your right to take future action.

If you do believe that someone is infringing your brand then you should obtain advice from a knowledgeable intellectual property solicitor so you don’t fall foul of making a ‘groundless threat’.

DISCLAIMER

The material in this article has been written for the purpose of giving a general overview of the law in this area and is not intended to be relied upon as specific advice.

If you would like specific advice about how this may apply to your business please contact Nick Austen on nick.austen@vertexlaw.co.uk, 01732 224018 or Gemma Brown on gemma.brown@vertexlaw.co.uk, 01732 224053 who will be happy to assist you further.