WHAT IS A TRADE MARK?
A trade mark is used to distinguish the goods or services of one company from another. You can register your trade mark to protect your brand, for example, the name of your product or service, a phrase, or logo.
Why do I need a trade mark?
A registered trade mark provides you with the right to use that mark for the goods/services for which it is registered. It also has the following benefits:
- It tells people about you and your business, helping to discourage others from getting too close to your mark. It acts
- as a warning, a flag.
- Most countries operate a first to file system. Registration protects your interests even before you starting using your trade mark, providing valuable protection for your business while you get up and running with your project.
- Registration acts as proof of your rights. Even in countries which protect rights established through use, you have to prove what you have got and relying on these rights is usually more expensive and uncertain.
- A registered trade mark is an asset which can be sold or licensed. For a business, a trade mark can be listed in the balance sheet as an asset.
How do I get a trade mark?
Before launching a new range of goods/services, you should conduct a search to check nobody has rights in your proposed mark or anything similar enough to stop you moving forward with your plans.
In an ideal world you would run comprehensive searches on all relevant trade mark registers and searches on things already in market. Different types of searches are available and we can help you to decide on the best level of searching for your project and business.
When you have finalised your trade mark and have checked you are free to use it, we recommend that you file an application to protect the mark.
To do this, you need to file the application at the national trade mark office of the country in which you want to obtain the trade mark - in the UK this is the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO). This is because trade marks are territorial in nature – unfortunately there is no such thing as a worldwide trade mark! The application will be examined to check the mark is registrable, as in most countries, it is not possible to register a mark which is descriptive or laudatory. Some trade mark offices will also conduct searches for earlier identical/similar marks.
How long does it take to get a trade mark?
In the UK, once your application has been filed with the UK IPO it is examined as to registrability and searches for earlier identical/similar trade marks are automatically conducted. The UK IPO will notify the owners of UK trade marks that are located in these searches; however, the UK IPO will not refuse to register a trade mark because it conflicts with another trade mark unless an opposition is filed.
Once the application has successfully completed the examination stages, it will be published for two months in case any third parties want to object to the same. Subject to clearing this hurdle, the application goes forward to registration and the certificate is issued. The registration is then effective throughout the whole of the UK. Currently, we are expecting the process to take between three and four months, as long as no objections/oppositions are filed.
What makes a good trade mark?
It is possible to apply to register any of the following as trade marks:
- 3D shapes
Who can own a trade mark?
Any legal entity can own a trade mark – whether this is a natural person or a company.