We come across hundreds of trademarks every day – what are they, how do they work, and what do you need to know if you want to register your own?
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a sign that distinguishes your services or goods from those of your competitors. It can take the form of a logo, word, symbol, phrase, signature, image or even a colour or sound.
Why Register a Trademark?
The benefits of registering a trademark are numerous:
– Protect your brand
– Make it easy for customers to recognise your products and services
– Provide your company with an identity
– Avoid imitation from competitors
– Enjoy the exclusive right to use it
– Use the ® symbol alongside it
Registering a trademark also makes it easier to take legal action against anyone else who uses it without permission. You can still take action when someone uses an unregistered trademark without permission, but registering it make the process easier.
What is the ® Symbol?
The ® symbol clearly shows that your trademark is registered. You are not obliged to show it, but you have the right to use it when you have registered your trademark. You could also use ‘RTM’, which stands for Registered Trade Mark.
Section 95 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 states that you cannot use either of these if your mark is not registered somewhere in the world. Doing so is an offence.
If you do not register a trademark, you can still use the ‘TM’ symbol because this does not imply that the trademark is registered.
How to Register a Trademark
If registering a trademark in the UK, you must apply to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). There are three phases to the registration process, and it usually takes about four months to register. However, if there are objections and it is opposed, it could take a lot longer.
Rules for Acceptance
Not anything can be registered as a trademark. There are a number of rules governing what is acceptable. For example:
– it must be distinctive from any other trademark
– it must not describe any services or goods, or characteristics of services or goods
– it cannot be offensive
– it cannot be illegal
– it cannot be deceptive by suggesting goods or services have a quality that they do not
Trademark Registration Costs
In 2014, the cost for registering a trademark online is £170 for a single class. There are 45 classes to choose from, and for each extra class the fee is £50.
A paper filed application costs £200 with an extra £50 for additional classes.
Using the Right Start service, the fee is again £200 and £50 for additional classes. However, using this, you only pay half the fee when you apply. Once the examination report is received, you can go ahead and pay the other half, or abandon the application.
Full details of forms and fees can be found on the IPO website at http://www.ipo.gov.uk
Renewing or Changing Your Trademark
A trademark requires renewing once every 10 years if you wish to keep it registered. If you forget to renew it after 10 years, you will be given another six months to restore it.
You can also change your trademark’s ownership in the situation where your company merges with another. You may also be able to correct an obvious error in the trademark registration.
Register Your Trademark Today
Registering a trademark is a very good idea if you want to protect your products or services. Registering a trademark is a simple process, but it provides you with greater protection for your brand and should therefore be considered by all companies.