Your brand is one of your most valuable assets – yet many businesses don’t realise how important it is to protect it. One way of protecting your brand is by registering it as a trade mark.
Below are tips on why you should trademark and how to go about it:
1. Why register? Registered trade mark protection gives the registered proprietor the exclusive right to use the brand. Furthermore, the trade mark registration is evidence that the registered proprietor is the owner of the brand. Once registered, trade marks last for an initial period of 10 years
2. Check it’s available – before you go to the expense of developing your branding and marketing collateral, we’d advise you check that your trading name hasn’t been registered by someone else first. You can do this using the free search tool on the www.ipo.gov.uk (UK) or tmdn.org(international) websites.
3. What can you protect? It’s possible to register most names, slogans and logos as trade marks. So, it’s important to identify the key aspect of your brand identity and seek to protect that element/s. There are restrictions, particularly with common words and phrases, so check this out first
4. Choose the right categories. Trade Marks are registered in respect of goods and services divided into categories called classes. It’s important to think about how your business will develop eg you may be producing clothing now, but will you want to move into footwear or jewellery in the future?
5. Select your key territories Trade marks cover specific territories. You should apply to register your trade mark in your key trading areas. This may be just in the UK or where you have an interest in expanding in the future. Think about the countries where your manufacture as well. There are costs involved, particularly when you seek to protect outside the UK and EU, so you may have to prioritise and protect in stages.
6. Make your brand work for you Once your trade mark is in place, and you build your brand you can use these assets to work for you. You can licence your trade marks, or enter into franchise deals with, third parties in return for a royalty/receive share.
7. Understanding it’s a necessary cost Whilst the application costs are upfront which can be hard if you’re a start-up, given that a trade mark is usually for 10 years, it’s not bad value. If you do it yourself, for the UK, budget around £200 + £50 for each additional classe, and around £800 for an EU trade mark. For other territories you’ll definitely need to engage the services of an IP lawyer, so costs will vary and increase depending on the amount of territories
8. How to go about it. Registering in the UK and EU isn’t difficult and you may even be able to trade mark your brand yourself through the www.ipo.gov.uk, without having to use lawyers.
And finally – don’t get confused registering your company name with Companies House, and your website domain name, isn’t the same as a registered trade mark. You’ll need it all!
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By Tahir Basheer, Sheridans & Alison Lewy