The dos and don'ts business trade marks

Mark Kingsley-Williams, director of Trade Mark Direct, explains the importance of business trademarks and how to get the trademarking process right.

Your business stands or falls by its name and logo.  A good trademark adds to a brand's value making your brand stand apart from your competitors.  Too many companies pay little attention to getting the correct trademarks for their business.

Follow the eight tips below to protect your brand.

1. DON'T just register your company or product name with Companies House as this does not give you any trademark protection, nor does owning the website address. Register your name and logo with the Intellectual Property Office. (More than half of DIY applications fail, so consider using an expert agent or attorney.)

2. DO your homework. Check that the name you want can be registered as a trademark and it's available for use at Companies House. Also, check the internet domain name is free.

3. DON'T be too literal or descriptive with your company or product name. Names such as 'Designer Leather Bags' won't be accepted, nor will misspelled words such as 'Letha Bagz'. You also can't register a trademark that includes a famous name or brand, for example, 'Mike's Armani Shop'. And, by the way adding .com or .co.uk or Ltd to a name that is otherwise identical to a registered trademark makes no difference, you can't use or register it.

4. DO think about creating a made-up name, as this is one of the easiest ways to a successful trademark application. It's one of the reasons brand names such as Viagra, Accenture and Yakult come about.

5. DON'T worry, if another company has already registered the name you want, you may still be able to register it if your products or services are different.

6. DO research your classes. Two companies can own the same trademark as long as they are registered for different products.

7. DON'T delay your application. Too many businesses put it off until too late when someone else has already registered the company or product name they have been using. They then have to rebrand and start trading under a new name, which can be a very costly process.

8. DO be thorough. A registered trademark lasts for 10 years before renewal fees are due, and once it's registered you cannot increase the scope. So if you currently only sell clothing but are harbouring a desire to expand to makeup, then it's worth applying for that class, otherwise, you have to start and fund a second application from scratch.

For more information on how to apply for a trademark go to www.trademarkdirect.co.uk, the online trademark registration company.

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