23 September 2016

Robert Hallmark, CEO and founder of Gruhme UK Limited, shares his words of wisdom on the importance of protecting your IP

Understanding a business’ intellectual property can increase sales, increase profit margins, help secure finance and open the door to the granting of UK patents, trade marks and design rights. Whilst every business owns and uses intellectual property on a daily basis, not every business exploits its intellectual property to its maximum advantage. In this article we hear from Robert Hallmark – the inspirational CEO and founder of Gruhme UK Limited – and find out why he believes that it is important to protect IP even in start-ups and new enterprises.

Rob left the security of his life as a corporate lawyer to pursue his dream of building a British fragrance house. In December 2015, The Morgan Motor Company (world famous for its handcrafted works of iconic British motor cars) joined forces with his Birmingham-based fragrance house, to release a Morgan branded men’s fragrance.

Having identified a strong interest in British branding, Rob set about establishing a British supply-chain by striking deals with a leading health and beauty distributor in Stratford upon Avon, a Smethwick-based labelling firm, a bottling company in Cheshire and a cellophane wrap company from Manchester. Rob’s aim is to develop the brand and the business from men’s shaving and personal care products, into personal wear, such as cufflinks and wallets, which are set to follow. Rob told me that “what I’m trying to create in the brand is something unique, understated and subtle – a British classic.”

Rob used his past experience as a lawyer to strike a balance between the need to protect the Gruhme brand against the practicalities of operating a start-up business with restricted finances. To date, Rob has simply chosen to register trademarks to protect the company name “Gruhme” as well as its “G” logo in the UK. Rob told me that registering these trademarks was important to him because:

(i)               in the early days of trading his brand awareness was how he measured success, so protecting that growth in awareness by registering the name was key;

(ii)              IP protection was Rob’s insurance policy against a catastrophic loss of effort. He feared that without some sort of brand protection, Gruhme would be relentlessly copied and that the remedy for resolving that problem would far outstrip the initial cost of taking out brand protection; and

(iii)             he knew that IP would be essential to building foundation relationships with large financiers, retailers and investors and that his company would gain less traction with those major banks, investors and possibly even customers unless he could prove that his brand, and therefore his business, was protected.

Rob’s parting words to me were “the brand must be the biggest consideration of the business, if the brand is not then you are not exploiting its potential fully”. Now isn’t that something worth protecting?

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About the Author
Joanne Hodgetts, Senior Associate Solicitor
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