Registering your trade mark is essential to protect your brand and intellectual property. To make sure you do it right, here’s a quick guide to get you started.
What do I need to consider?
1) Think of a good name. The most effective and enforceable trade marks are invented. For example, KODAK had no meaning before it was used as a trade mark.
2) Use a registered trade mark attorney. Completely straightforward cases are few and far between, and expert advice is essential in advising you of a suitable filing strategy.
3) Don’t rely on registration of your name at Companies House, or as an Internet domain name. This will not give you protection in the same way as a trade mark does.
4) Don’t delay. Many businesses put off registering their trade mark until they find that someone else is using it or, worse still, someone else has registered it. Registering your trade mark as part of your start-up procedure may save you thousands further down the line in litigation costs or rebranding. In short, register as much as possible as soon as possible!
What checks do I need to do?
1) Check to see if your proposed name is one which the Intellectual Property Office will accept. Your mark must meet strict criteria for registration. Make sure that the name is distinctive of you and not descriptive of your goods or services. For example, COWSHED has been registered for all sorts of beauty products, but it wouldn’t be acceptable as a trade mark for cowsheds.
2) Check that no one else has the name, through a search of the trade marks registers. It’s not enough to do a search on the Internet.
3) Think carefully about which classes your mark will be registered in. There are 45 different classes and once the application has been filed you cannot widen the list of goods and services. You need to make sure that from the outset you cover everything that you use or intend to use the mark for. Otherwise, you will need another application.
4) Research the name, to check that it does not have a negative connotation in the market in which it will be used.
How do I maintain my trade mark?
1) Set up a trade mark watching service. This will let you know if another business applies for a mark which is the same or similar to your own.
2) Monitor the market and your competitors to make sure that no one is using your mark. You do not wish your brand to become the common name for your products or services, or to be used by another business without your permission.
3) Make sure you renew your trade mark when it falls due, in ten years from the filing date. If renewed, your trade mark will last forever!