How Do You Trade Mark Intellectual Property?

A trade mark can be registered for services or goods as a way of making them distinguishable from their competition. This can apply to many different things like slogans, logos, a particular colour, animation or even a word.

Registering a trade mark can help to protect against counterfeiting and fraud, making a trade mark incredibly beneficial for both big and small businesses. In the event that your intellectual property is used without your consent, having a trade mark means that you can take legal action regarding intellectual property protection.

In the following article, we will discuss how a trade mark can protect your intellectual property, what can, and what cannot be registered as a trade mark, how to identify a trade mark, how to trade mark your intellectual property and how much it costs to obtain a trade mark in the UK.

For specific advice on the use of trade marks and intellectual property protection for your business, please speak to our expert intellectual property solicitors.

How does a trade mark protect intellectual property?

When you register a trade mark, you have exclusive rights over it. This means you can take legal action against anyone who uses it without your consent.

By providing intellectual property protection, a trade mark can help you prevent and defend against fraud and counterfeiting, as well as more generally stopping other people from using your unique logo, slogan, symbol etc. for profit.

A trade mark will also make it easy to identify your business as the source of particular goods or services. A famous example of a trade mark is the McDonald’s arches, which can be instantly recognised as relating to the fast-food organisation across the globe. Having trade marks prevents confusion in the market place and ensures that it is clear which goods and services belong to which provider.

What can be a trade mark?

There are a large number of things that can be registered as a trade mark, from logos to a particular sound or colour. The only constant is that whatever is trade marked must be something that distinguishes your goods or service from other traders.

The following can all be registered as a trade mark:

  • Shape
  • Pattern
  • Motion
  • Word
  • Logo
  • A single or specific combination of colours
  • Sound
  • Symbol

This list is not exhaustive and a trade mark may also be a combination of these things, for example Netflix’s iconic opening which contains both visual and audio elements.

What can’t be registered as a trade mark

There is however, a limit to what can be used as a trade mark. For example, a trade mark cannot be:

  • Descriptive
  • Commonly used
  • Non-distinctive
  • Something generic that is already regularly associated with your trade
  • Related to royal families, specific coats of arms or official emblems

In addition to this, a trade mark cannot include national flags or offensive/sexual images or language. You may also not be able to register your desired trade mark if it is too similar to an existing one owned by a different business.

This area of intellectual property law is complex, so expert advice is always recommended.

How can you identify a trade mark in the UK?

A registered trade mark is represented by the letter R in a circle (®). This is used by trade mark holders as a clear sign that a logo, colour, video, etc. belongs to a certain company or business.

In some instances, you may see the letters TM. This stands for trade mark, however, it means that the protected item is currently unregistered (in which case, to protect the mark, you would consider bringing a claim for ‘passing off’.

In order for a trade mark to be registered, an application needs to made to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

How do you register a trade mark?

In order to successfully register a trade mark there are 5 key steps that need to be taken:

  1. Choose a trade mark
  2. Ensure you have met the legal requirements for a trade mark
  3. Identify the class/classes of good or service you will use
  4. Confirm that there are no other businesses with the same trade mark
  5. Apply to register your trade mark

Choosing a trade mark

The first step in registering a trade mark is to determine exactly what you will be registering. This may be the logo for your business, an identifying jingle, or symbol you want to use to showcase your brand’s identity.

Ensure your trade mark will meet legal requirements

Before you attempt to register a trade mark, it is important to ensure that it meets all of the necessary legal requirements.

For example, your trade mark should not directly describe your product or service, be misleading or too generic. It needs to be completely unique and as distinctive as possible.

Identify the class of goods or service your trade mark will fall under

In the UK, it is necessary to use a trade mark in relation to a specific type of goods or service. This is important as the class or classes chosen will represent the level of protection covering your trade mark.

Searching for similar trade marks

You will not be able to successfully register for a trade mark if there is already an existing trade mark that is identical or similar to yours.

In order to ensure that there is no similar trade mark already registered or in the application process, you will have to perform a thorough search through the trade mark register. This can be done through the IPO website by searching for the name, image, phrase, owners name, trade mark number, etc.

Contact an expert intellectual property solicitor if you require assistance or support in this matter.

Applying to register your trade mark

The final step is to apply for your trade mark. In order to make this process quicker and more straightforward, it is advised that you contact a trade mark attorney. They can assess your application to ensure that every aspect has been considered.

How much does it cost to register a trade mark in the UK?

In the UK, the amount that you will have to pay to register a trade mark will depend on how many classes you have in total and if you have chosen to complete a ‘Right Start’ application first.

If you apply for a Right Start application, this service costs half as much as the official application and is a way to manage any issues with the trade mark application before it is officially submitted. This way, you can be sure that your application meets all of the necessary rules and regulations.

We would suggest checking the IPO website for up to date costings for registrations.

Contact our intellectual property trade mark solicitors today

If you need assistance regarding a trade mark dispute, our team of expert intellectual property solicitors at Saunders have the experience and expertise to give you high quality guidance and support in these matters.

We can offer a free initial consultation to establish if we can assist you and provide a straightforward service to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.


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