A relatively simple health marketing mistake could be costly to your and your brand.

This past week we were looking at a couple of health marketing agencies that were touting the success of their clients’ recent marketing campaigns.  One campaign for a regional hospital caught our attention.  It is an example of great marketing that could quickly go bad.

The Marketing Campaign.   The centerpiece of the hospital’s marketing campaign was a new tagline.  The tagline was meant to illustrate the innovation of the hospital’s various technologies.  The slogan was used across various marketing channels, including print, web, social, and a Super Bowl spot that aired on regional TV.   Based on some back of napkin calculations, it is estimated that total marketing spending for the entire campaign was easily in the high-six to low-seven figures.

The Diagnosis.   The tagline was never cleared nor was a trademark application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Risk Factors.    The failure to conduct a trademark search could result in a third-party’s claim of trademark infringement.  If found liable, the hospital could be enjoined from using the tagline, and also be ordered to pay up to triple damages (if the infringement was willful) and potentially the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.  In addition, the hospital could be ordered to change its marketing campaign name.  This is in addition to having to be forced to expend additional sums of money in either corrective advertising or adopting a new name and campaign.

The cost of prevention.  A full trademark search, opinion letter, and filing of the trademark with the USPTO would have been approximately $2,500.00.   If the total health marketing campaign spend was $500,000, this would have been approximately .5% of the overall budget.

The Lesson.   Healthcare brands are under increasing competition, particularly among local hospitals and clinics.  That is why marketing compliance training is becoming more and more important.   Before you or your team adopt a new name for a health marketing campaign, hospital name, or branded community outreach effort, it is advisable to conduct a full trademark search.

To discuss your healthcare branding needs, feel free to contact the author to discuss your options for prevention and protection.