This article summarises the five main myths (and the truthful answers) that we commonly hear when discussing trade mark protection with business owners.
1. I have registered a company name, so I don’t need a trade mark
TRUTH: Registering a company name at Companies House merely stops anyone else registering the same or very similar company name. Unless you register your name as a trade mark, the name can be left free for other companies to use.
2. It can wait until I hit the big time
TRUTH: A “first-to-file” system exists in the UK, and generally therefore once an application is filed, anyone that files after you, is behind you in the queue.
This means that applications should be filed at the earliest opportunity, and in fact one of the advantages of trade marks is that they can be secured in advance.
Delaying filing a trade mark can have serious adverse consequences, especially if you are heavily promoting the product on social media. Opportunists can file for the mark themselves. It may be possible to ultimately wrest control of your property back, but it’s an expensive and stressful way to conduct business, when such problems could have been easily avoided.
3. I don’t need a trade mark as I’ve been around for ages
TRUTH: Owning a registered trade mark is the best way to be able to prevent others from using what’s rightfully yours.
If you don’t have a trade mark registration, but have been using for some time, it is possible to take action against someone else who is using your mark, on the basis of “passing off”. This is notoriously difficult and time-consuming to prove in court, and is therefore beyond the financial capabilities of most businesses.
4. Obtaining registration is simple and I can register a trade mark myself
TRUTH: It is possible to register your own trade mark, and in many ways, the process can appear to be simple. However, it is only when you come to enforce your trade mark registration against a competitor that issues can come to light. By then it may be too late.
I have never seen a self-filed trade mark which has been drafted to the same level as a professional one would be. Why take the risk, when your business is so important?
5. It costs an arm and a leg
TRUTH: The costs are very reasonable relative to the gains to your business.
What’s more, trade marks add value to your company. They are an asset with a life of their own, and can be bought, sold, licensed and/or franchised.
Trade mark registration is not simply for big businesses – the law applies in just the same way, whether you are a sole trader or a large corporate.
If you’d like to find out more information on the points raised here:
Ward Trade Marks Limited is a Bury St Edmunds based specialist trade mark attorney firm.