Cheeky Panda aims to clean up in Europe
Branding a toilet tissue product with the word ‘cheeky’ will inevitably prompt a wry smile from British shoppers. But for Chinese entrepreneur Julie Chen, the pun was a complete accident – and proved how critical intellectual property guidance can be, writes Enterprise Europe Network adviser, Heather Benham, who helped Cheeky Panda protect its name across Europe.
“Everybody loves the panda,” says Chen, co-founder of Essex-based Cheeky Panda, which produces sustainable, hypoallergenic tissue products made from bamboo. “But I thought ‘cheeky’ was just ‘fun’. I didn’t actually ever realise that people thought ‘bumcheeky’!”
It’s a humorous story making a serious point – companies need to recognise and protect their intellectual property says Marta Quirós, IP expert at Enterprise Europe Network. Quirós (along with many other EEN advisers) has advised scores of UK firms on the importance of trademarking their name, and has connected many more to specialists in patenting products and services across the globe.
“You register a trademark, and other intellectual property because you don’t want others to use it,” says Quirós.
“Trademarking is about protecting your brand image and company name and is relatively straightforward. The process typically takes a few months and usually costs less than £1,000 for protection across the EU’s 28 member states.”
“Patents, however, focus on the industrial application of products and services and are related to how innovative your product is in a global context.”
Businesses should seek legal advice for patents as the registration process is complex – usually taking five years and, if successful, protects an innovation for two decades, adds the advisor.
For Julie Chen, trademarking Cheeky Panda in the UK and across Europe proved pivotal. The company launched in 2016 and already ranks among Amazon’s top-selling wellbeing brands and is stocked in more than 100 organic and natural stores across the UK.
Chen is now on a European drive, starting with a partnership with Belgium-headquartered bio-market supermarket Bio-Planet.
“Having an ® attached to your brand makes it look more formal and serious,” explains Chen. “It’s very important for us to protect our brand in the UK and internationally. We’re the only brand across Europe allowed to use the Cheeky Panda name and no competitors can steal our brand identity.”
Registering a UK trademark was a very simple process continues Chen: “I applied online, it was very low-cost and was approved quickly. For our international trademark we went through Enterprise Europe Network, who were very good and detailed, and introduced us to local IP specialists. The registration was approved within six months.”
Above all, companies shouldn’t be daunted by the prospect of protecting their IP, particularly with Brexit looming says Quirós: “Brexit will not affect patents as they are enshrined in international law. A UK trademark will still be a UK trademark and a pan-European trademark will continue to protect your business across the European Union.
“Protecting your intellectual property is something that you have to do. It’s the essence of trading: you have a name, brand, product or service and you have to protect it.”
The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) has been helping companies grow internationally for the past 20 years. They specialise in giving small-medium enterprises the expert support they need to make their business dreams a reality. To find out more about EEN telephone 0845 641 9955, email enterprise.europe [at] eeneast.org or visit www.enterprise-europe.co.uk
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Cheeky Panda co-founders Chris Forbes and Julie Chen.