Valuing Intangibles: Ranking Brands, Measuring Trade Mark Use

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Norwich Business School

Abstract

Brands are names, phrases, symbols or designs that identify particular products and they are almost always protected by trade marks. These entitle trade mark owners to fight copying and unlicensed use of their brands through the courts. This protection of a brand name makes trade mark protection essential for any business dealing with customers at arms length, because personal relationships can no longer protect the reputation of the seller in this case. Data from the trade mark register provides a complete list of existing and potential future brands. Not all trade marks are put to use, so the list of trade marks on the register is longer than the list of brands that are in use at any given time. The questions, whether a particular trade mark has been put to use and how widely it is known, are at the heart of many legal disputes about trade marks. Currently empirical data to answer these questions are collected through surveys, which can be quite costly.
The aim of this project is to improve the measurement of brand value and the measurement of trade mark use by combining data obtained from trade mark registers and data from Google's search products (Google Search, Google Trends and Google Insights for Search). Using these measures we will analyze and compare brand value and trade mark use in the United Kingdom and in Chile. While the United Kingdom has been and is the source of many brands with worldwide success, brands in Chile are more concentrated on the national or regional markets. Nonetheless brand names are of enormous importance to economic activity in Chile. The project will be the first to show how trade mark protection shapes economic activity in such a fast developing economy.
An important limitation of trade mark register data is a dearth of variables, which are correlated with the value of brands or the use of trade marks. Data from Google Search, Google Trends and Google Insights for Search can be used to remedy these problems. By counting the number of websites a brand name appears on using Google Search, or the number of times that that name is searched for by consumers using Google Trends or Insights for Search, value and use correlates can be obtained. We refer to these as Google citations. Such citations can provide a ranking of the importance of brands, can show that a given trade marks is being used and how widely the brand is known.
In using these data two important challenges must be overcome: heterogeneity of Google citations and attempts to manipulate the measures obtained. Both challenges will be addressed in the project.
Google citations are heterogeneous because a citation on one website or a search for the mark at a given time may reflect positive interest while another citation or a search at another time may reflect negative interest in a brand. Aggregating the two would be misleading. We intend to resolve these problems by using information from Google Trends that contains news about a particular search term at different times. These news items can be turned into information about the quality of a search or web pages with the help of sentiment analysis.

Attempts to manipulate Google's rankings of websites though the PageRank link analysis algorithm are legion. At present attempts to manipulate data on Google's other services are not known to us, but they could arise. We will consider ways of limiting the search terms we employ in order to obtain consistent measures of value from Google's search products.

Planned Impact

The project we outline here may benefit businesses working with trade marks and brands as well as the courts, trade mark offices, trade mark lawyers and finally competition regulators. In developing this project we have been in contact with representatives of all of these groups to discuss our ideas as is outlined in the Pathways to Impact attachment. Here we briefly discuss how each group might benefit separately.

Currently the valuation of intangible assets such as brands and technological innovations as well as the intellectual property rights associated with those assets (trade marks and patents) is very complex and requires a great deal of expertise. This project will provide the first attempt to deliver reliable estimates of market value for trade mark stocks of a wide range of different firms in the United Kingdom and in Chile. These will make it easier for those buying and selling such assets, to derive values that are connected to the markets' evaluations of such assets.

Trade marks are frequently the object of litigation and it has recently been shown that such litigation is on the rise in the United States. The number of trade mark opposition cases heard at trade mark offices far outstrips the number of court cases. In many of these cases the use of one or more trade marks or the question whether a trade mark is well known are at the heart of the case. Currently, evidence that is brought to bear in such cases relies on surveys of consumers and evidence of use brought by the parties. This project will deliver a methodology to obtain data on use and extent of use by jurisdiction or territory from data collected and made available by Google. This data might then be used by the courts and trade mark offices to supplement the types of evidence already considered. The advantage of such data obtained from Google is that it would be comparatively cheaper than a survey of consumers.

Finally, our methodology will allow us to study the effects of mergers and merger related divestitures of brands on brand value. This question is of interest to competition regulators, which are seeking to reduce the anticompetitive effects of mergers by forcing firms to sell off parts of their businesses. It is currently difficult for competition regulators to establish whether brands that have been divested continue to thrive under new ownership in such a way as to fulfill their intended role.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The aim of this project was to investigate whether data from Google Trends could be used to value brands. Currently brand valuation methods are highly complex and results are generally not available for many brands and are not comparable across brands.

We downloaded Google Trends data for brands in the automotive sector and for the brands of listed companies. The data were then joined to other data about the firms and brands we collected from public sources. Analysis of this data showed that:

1) Google Trends data provides a good measure of changes to brand value for well established brands with national or global reach in the automotive sector. The data capture changes in brand value that are the result of exogeous shocks, .e.g as a result of product recalls.

2) Google Trends data also contain information about variation in stock market value of listed companies that is not contained in data released through firms' quarterly and annual reports or in other publicly avialable data on intellectual property rights and citations of these rights.

3) Using Google Trends data for brand valuation requires that researchers and analysts pay attention to the time series properties of the data. The levels of serial correlation in the data are high and unit roots and unobserved common factors are often present.

4) Google Trends data can be usefully complemented with data from other sources such as Wikipedia for the purposes of brand valuation.

5) Analysis of Google Trends data joined to other longitudianl data requires that great care is taken with respect to the modeling of serial correlation, order of integration of the data and onobserved common factors.
Exploitation Route We have completed the first working paper on predicting sales using Google data. This has been presented at 8 international conferences and seminars (2x USA, 2x France, 2x Germany, 1x Portugal, 1x UK) and is on the program for two more conferences. The paper has been under review for 6 months at a top 5 economics journal.

We have just completed an improved version of the firm-level data for the second paper on market value and are now moving to update our Google Trends data for this work.

One collaborator on the grant has written a paper on submarine trademarks that is currently under revision at a top marketing journal. He has used techniques and algorithms developed for this project.

We anticipate that non-academic users will use data from Google Trends to evaluate marketing campaigns and brand value. This is likely to take place across all industries that rely heavily on brands to support communication with customers, employees and suppliers.

We already have some feedback from industry suggesting that this use of data from Google Trends is being actively investigated.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Retail

URL https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2832004
 
Description We have been tracking a blog post related to the working paper. This post continues to be read. Readers originate from many countries. We are unable to determine whether this affects their use of data from Google Trends at this stage.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Transport
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Training of MSc Students
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Training of PhD Students
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Title Scoreboard linked to patents and trade marks 
Description We have linked data obtained from the JRC - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Unit Knowledge for Growth - to data on patents from PATSTAT and data from OHIM's register of EU trade marks. We will now retrieve the Google Trends data linked to the trademarks we have identified. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Work is continuing. 
 
Description Data exchange with Eddie Wilson (Bristol) 
Organisation University of Bristol
Department Queen's School of Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have used the data to jointly write a paper.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of paper and expertise.
Impact Draft working paper.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Data exchange with JRC - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies 
Organisation European Commission
Department Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Country Belgium 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Linking of data from the EU R and D Scoreboard to IP data (Patents, Trade marks)
Collaborator Contribution Provision of raw data.
Impact Work on a paper is ongoing. We will supply the linked data back to JRC.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Visiting PhD Student 
Organisation University of Padova
Department Economics Department
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Training of a visiting PhD student.
Collaborator Contribution Sending of the visiting PhD student who is working on data and two papers.
Impact Firm level data based on the EU Scoreboard.
Start Year 2015
 
Title R script to obtain data from Google Trends 
Description This is code that can be used within R to download data from Google Trends. We used this code to bulk download data related to brands for our project. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact We have had three requests for this script so far 
URL https://github.com/jirzii/R4GT
 
Description 43rd EARIE Conference in Lisbon 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 43rd EARIE Conference in Lisbon, 26 - 28 August 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.earie2016.org/?codNode=421
 
Description Annual Oxford IP Conversazione 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Oxford hosts an internationally reputed intellectual property moot court competition each year, which includes an evening of enjoyable speeches orthogonally related to the problem - the Conversazione. I presented results on cluttering of the trademark space and use of marks at this event on 15.3.2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Blog post on Predicting Sales with Google Trends 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post on Predicting Sales with Google Trends
by Georg von Graevenitz
published on the CGR blog on the 16/11/16

The blog post describes key insights of the paper 'Does Online Search Predict Sales? Evidence from Big Data for Car Markets in Germany and the UK';

12/12/16 the post has been read 237 times.

16/3/17 the post has been read 845 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://qmulcgr.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/predicting-sales-with-google-trends.html
 
Description EC2 CONFERENCE ON BIG DATA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact EC2 CONFERENCE ON BIG DATA at TOULOUSE SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS, DECEMBER 16-17, 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.tse-fr.eu/conferences/2016-27th-ec2-conference-big-data
 
Description NBER Workshop on Economics of IT and Digitization 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact NBER Workshop on Economics of IT and Digitization 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://conference.nber.org/confer/2016/SI2016/PRIT/PRITprg.html
 
Description Presentation at Google 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk led to questions and discussions with members of two other research teams.

The event took place yesterday, too early to tell.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at Max Planck Institute in Munich 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk led us to further substantiate our theoretical model. We shared insights on methods with researchers working on related analysis in the fields of finance and innovation.

Two researchers asked for ourslides and are awaiting the completion of our working paper. A colleague asked to collaborate on a new project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation at OECD Working Party on Industry Analysis 9-10 December 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Further interaction with OECD and the WPIA is expected. There was discussion at the meeting and there is a document (working paper) which participants can download and share.

Too early to tell as this happened in December 2014 just before Christmas and it is now January 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://community.oecd.org/community/wpia
 
Description Seminar at Boston University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar at Boston University on trademark cluttering.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bu.edu/law/faculty-and-staff/colloquia-workshops/law-economics-seminar/
 
Description Seminar at United States Patent and Trademark Office 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar on cluttering of trade mark registers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/patent-examiner-technical-training-program/pettp-2018-organ...
 
Description USC Dornsife INET Conference on Big Data 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact USC Dornsife INET Conference on Big Data at University of Southern California on Oct 21 and 22
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://dornsife.usc.edu/inet/big-data-in-economics/
 
Description Visit to the World Intellectual Property Organisation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva on trade mark clutter and discussions related to use of WIPO data to generate an innovation index using data from the trade mark register managed by WIPO.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019