Trademarks are vital in that they protect the signs and symbols which differentiate your business from another. This guide will outline what trademarks are, whether you need to register them or not and if you do how to apply.

  • What is a trademark?
  • Register or not?
  • How to register a trademark

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a symbol or a sign which differentiates the goods and services of one business from another one. You can register your trademark - a name, logo, slogan, domain name, shape, colour or sound with the Intellectual Property Office. This can legally protect your trademark from use by a competitor. The trademark must be distinctive for the goods and services that you provide, not be deceptive, illegal or immoral and not be similar to existing trademarks. A registered trademark must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force.

  • Trademarks can help you distinguish yourself from a competitor
  • By registering you can legally protect your trademark by use by a competitor

Register or not?

A trademark does not have to be registered but an unregistered trademark will rely on the common law of 'passing off'. Under this your business can still take action against a business who uses your trademark on its goods and services without having your permission to do so. You have to prove that the trademark is yours, you have built up a reputation in your mark and you have been harmed in some way by the other business's use of the mark. This can be difficult to prove and it is an expensive process. By registering your trademark it can be easier to take legal action against any infringement of your trademark by a competitor.

  • Find out more about 'passing off' and decide whether your trademark needs to be registered or not
  • Consider applying for a registered trademark for your business

How to register a trademark

You can apply to the Intellectual Property Office either through the post or online. The first step is to fill out a UK trademark application form. You must provide an illustration of your trademark which must be capable of being shown or represented in words or pictures. You have to list all the goods or services you trade in using the mark you are applying for. It costs £200 to apply to register a trademark in one category of goods and services. You can't just apply and assume that your application will be accepted. Once the application is received by the IPO you will receive a receipt and then there is a rigorous examination process undertaken before it is accepted or not.

  • Apply to the Intellectual Property Office either online or through the post
  • Set aside £200 for the application fee

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