You can use a trade mark without registering it. However, doing so puts your business at considerable risk.
Why? Because without a registered trade mark, you don’t have an exclusive right to use that trade mark. This could have serious ramifications.
To explain further, here are five reasons why businesses should always register a trade mark.
1. To make sure it’s yours – and yours alone
If you come up with a new trade mark and don’t register it, anyone else can use it. Even worse, anyone else can register it for themselves, meaning that you could lose the right to use it.
Now what happens? Well, the registered trade mark belongs to them – not you. You may be able to take legal action, but if not, you have lost your right to use the trade mark.
On the other hand, imagine you build a successful business, but you haven’t registered a trade mark. Someone else sees how well you’re doing and decides to ride on the back of your success. They then create a brand with a very similar (or even identical) name, logo and slogan – and they file a trade mark application for it. At this stage, you’re left with a prolonged expensive fight on your hands.
If you want exclusive rights to your trade mark, you have to register it. That is the only way to prevent others from jumping on the bandwagon and taking it for themselves.
2. To avoid a forced rebrand
As we mentioned above, if someone else uses your trade mark but you haven’t registered it, then you may be able to take legal action through a passing off claim. However, it’s not something you should rely on. It can be very difficult and time consuming to prove your case, further, you may not be able to afford legal proceedings.
If pursuing a passing off action is not an option, you may have no other choice, commercially, but to give up your trade mark and rebrand. This could be the only way to prevent your customers from being confused and losing trade to the other business. The fact that you need to rebrand may seem absurd, especially if you’ve been using the mark for years. But if you have not registered the trade mark, you will have difficulty in claiming it as your own.
This is not somewhere that you want to be. Unplanned rebrands are costly and disruptive to any business.
3. To maintain your reputation
Even if someone else starts to use a trade mark very similar to yours, but doesn’t register it, it can severely damage your reputation.
You may have spent years gaining the trust of your customers. But what if another company sets up shop with the same name? This company may have terrible customer service or sell substandard products/services. Now, consumers cannot differentiate between your brand and the new kid on the block. Soon enough, your reputation will unravel and you’ll start to lose customers.
4. To add value to your brand
When you register a trade mark, it becomes a valuable piece of intellectual property. As such, you can monetise it by doing things like franchising, licencing and even selling your trade mark. Your brand also becomes more attractive to potential investors, who will be more willing to enter into a deal, if the security of a registered trade mark is in place.
A trade mark also increases the perceived value for customers. How many of us buy products from known brands, rather than unheard-of competitors? Even if it costs more money, most people stick to brands they know to be credible.
5. To give you peace of mind – for a whole decade and more
When you register a trade mark in the UK, it lasts for a whole decade. That’s ten years of knowing that no one else can use your brand name, logo or slogan. During this time, you can forge ahead with your business, building your reputation, adding value to your brand and setting yourself apart from your competitors.
Six months before your trade mark is due to expire, you can renew it for another ten years. This ensures ongoing protection – and longevity – for your business.
Free Guide: Everything A Business Owner Needs To Know About Trade Marks
The guide will explain to you in detail the essentials of trade mark protection including:-
- Choosing a distinctive brand name – why a good choice will resonate with your customers and reduce your advertising and marketing spend.
- The importance of avoiding the descriptive/ generic trade mark trap.
- The importance of pre-filing searches – done the correct way – to avoid future legal action against you and the risk of having to rebrand.
- Strategy on when to time your application.
- Realising the value of your trade mark – why your trade mark is considered an asset on your balance sheet.
- The importance of maintaining and enforcing your registered trade mark rights once your mark is registered.
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Ultimately, registering a trade mark is all about protecting your business. Yes, there’s a small expense involved but you should view this as an investment. The consequences of failing to register a trade mark could be far more costly.
If you’d like help registering your trade mark, our team of Chartered Trade Mark Attorneys can assist you.