What is a trademark? A trademark (or trade mark) is the 'badge' of a business.
They enable customers or clients to differentiate and distinguish goods or services from different traders in the market place. Trademarks can take different forms but they are usually words or logos. The overall aim of a trademark is to ensure visibility and recognition by consumers in the market.
Whilst trademarks can be used if unregistered, registering a trademark will give the owner the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with specific goods or services, which are known as classes. Marks that are identical or similar to one another can co-exist in the market as long as they are in different or unrelated/detached classes.
The process of registering a trademark can be complex, especially if there are objections by users of similar marks in similar classes, which is why seeking legal advice before starting a trademark application is always recommended.
Decide what you want to trademark.
When starting a trademark application, it is best to consider exactly what is being trademarked - is it a logo, text, a combination of both? A good trademark is one that is distinctive. A unique mark will have more identifying strength amongst consumers. The trademark office examines the sign and decides whether it is acceptable as a trademark for the types of goods/services specified in the application. Not all words and names can be protected as trademarks. It is recommended to avoid generic, suggestive or descriptive text to describe the good/services. A trademark should be recognisable by a consumer for the goods/services it is representing without merely stating what they are.
Can you use the trademark?
To avoid infringing another business' trademark, ensure that the mark you are using is not the same or similar (in that it will cause confusion amongst consumers) with other marks that are being used in the market for identical or similar goods and services. Before applying for a trademark, it is best to do a search through the database of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). This will help you ensure the mark is not already in use and uncover any possible issues. Infringement could leave your business open to legal action by the trademark owner.
Choosing your classes and costs
You will need to decide the area in which you want to protect your mark. This can be in the UK, EU or Worldwide. Trademarks are registered in classes, which classify the goods, or services the mark is being registered for. There are 45 classes which are made up of terms and descriptions, so it is important to clearly identify what your business does and include all the terms applicable now or in the future, to your business. If the descriptions are too broad, the application can be rejected or delayed. The classification guide can be found at the UK IPO website. Applications are made online and fees are charged dependent on how many classes a mark is registered in. Alternatively, you can apply for the UK IPO's Right Start Examination Service, which will assess your application, and issue an examination report which will tell you if the application meets the rules for registration. -
The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. If you require further information, our commercial team would be more than happy to assist you.
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