Top Ten Guide to Trade Marks

1. What is it?
A trade mark is a sign which distinguishes your goods and services from those of other businesses. Your trade mark could also be described as your ‘brand’ and can be made up of words, logos or a combination of both.

2. Why do I need one?
A trade mark protects your business names and brands, including stopping unscrupulous traders trying to derive benefit from using your trade mark or a very similar trade mark to do business which could also damage your reputation in the process.

3. A rebrand could cost you dear.
Without a registered trade mark, your competitors could register your trade mark and force you to rebrand. A rebrand can cost tens of thousands of pounds in costs when you factor in new design work, replacement signage, all stationery, stock changes, the need for a new website and in addition, if the website domain needs to be changed this can be doubly harmful as search engines will need to ‘find’ your site all over again. Then it’s impossible to put a figure on the loss to a business of its good name.

4. Don’t rely on Companies House:
Registering your company at Companies House does not give you any rights to the name nor does it stop anyone else trade marking the name.

5. The myth of domain names:
This also applies to domain names. Owning a domain name does not offer you any protection under the law. If you want to protect your brand, you must register your trade mark.

6. Tell me the benefits of a trade mark?
Without a registered trade mark, your brand is insecure. A registered trade mark:

– Belongs to you, so you can sell it, or let other people have a licence that allows them to use it;
– Will help to put people off using your trade mark without your permission;
– Lets you take effective and inexpensive action against anyone using your trade mark without permission;
– Allows the authorities to bring criminal charges against counterfeiters.

7. How long does it last?
A registered trade mark lasts forever with renewal fees payable every ten years but think carefully about what it should cover as it’s not possible to expand a trade mark’s scope after registration. Therefore if you’re currently selling cosmetics but are thinking about expanding into clothing as well, then it’s worth applying for both classes, otherwise you would have to fund a second application from scratch.

8. Can two businesses own the same trade mark name?
Two businesses can register the same trade mark provided their areas of trade do not overlap, e.g. Tunstille Estate Agency and Tunstille Tree Surgeons.

9. How do I decide on a name?
To be registrable, trade marks must be distinctive for the goods and services you provide. A registered trade mark must allow consumers to differentiate your goods or service from another company’s. Made up words, for example AVENT iQ (baby bottle and warmer) and Viagra, are often the easiest way to be sure of obtaining a trade mark.

10. Don’t delay your application.
Too many businesses put it off until too late when someone else has already registered the company or product name they have been using. They then have to rebrand and start trading under a new name, which can be a very costly process. A trade mark can cost from as little as £470 including VAT.