With both entrepreneurs and investors asking us what the point of a trademark was, we decided to create this quick guide to explain some of the basics.
Almost everything you buy is protected by a trademark, from your coffee to the jeans and watch you wear.
Trademarks help people to distinguish the goods and services that individual companies produce from those of others. You can trademark a word and how it’s displayed. So, it makes sense to register a trademark to help set your goods/service apart from anyone else’s offering. Also, by trademarking your brand name, you’ll help protect against others stealing the name or misusing it.
Avoiding costly confusion
If another company registered the brand name you’ve been using, or something similar, would people be confused?
Now, imagine that someone bought a product that they thought was yours. But, it was in fact from a company with a similar name. It means fewer sales for you and more for them.
What if these customers weren’t pleased with the quality? They make disparaging and damaging remarks on social media that quickly spread far and wide. It would take an incredible amount of time and energy to repair all the damage and build up sales again.
And, that’s just one of the reasons why it’s so important that you register your trademark.
Protect your trademark
You’ve probably registered your company name, but that only stops anyone else from registering the very same name at Companies House. Someone could still register the name as a trademark – unless you do it first!
If your business is based in the UK, you could consider protecting your trademark with the UK Patent Office, in the EU. Or, maybe you should also think about protecting it in countries that are further afield.
Trademark protection in Europe and beyond
If you intend to trade in (continental) Europe, consider getting a Community Trade Mark so that you’re registered in all the EU countries.
Going further out geographically, if you have specific countries in mind where you think you may do business, you may be able to make individual national registrations or international registrations. The latter covers a number of countries in one go.
It’s worth noting that your registered trademark will only enjoy extra protection in the specific countries that your trademark’s registered. So, for example, if you registered in China and Japan, you wouldn’t automatically be protected in Korea.
Is your name registrable?
Trademark acceptance will vary from country to country. In Britain, the UK Intellectual Property Office generally considers whether your trademark will be understood to be one by the generable public. Some examples that can’t be registered include:
- A general description of your goods or services, for example, Comfy Bed.
- Not being distinctive, for example, Headache Pill.
- A description of the characteristics of your goods or services, for example Fast Car.
Unusual, imaginative and ‘invented’ brand names are less likely to face difficulty getting registered.
Search for conflicting marks before applying
Before you make your formal application to register your trademark, see if anyone’s already filed or registered a similar one to yours. You should check with the jurisdiction you intend to apply for trademarks in. If your search reveals a trademark that conflicts with the one you want to register, it’s still possible to go ahead. But, UK IPO may decide to warn the owner of the mark about your application, giving them an opportunity to register their opposition.
It’s also a good idea to check for unregistered marks that conflict with yours. You could search on the internet for trade directories. If someone hasn’t registered their trademark, but they’ve been using it for a long time, they may be able to block you from using it.
Not registered your trademark? Consider doing it now
If you’ve been using a name for years and you decide to register it, you might have to stop using it if someone else has already registered it.
So, you’ve registered the trademark. Now what?
You should now be able challenge anyone using the same trademark or a similar one in the same markets as you. So, for example, if you owned a national supermarket chain and someone tried to use a similar name for their shop, you could stop it, even if it was extremely funny.
Please note that Seedrs does not provide legal advice of any kind. Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice. If you have any questions with respect to intellectual property matters relevant to your business, you should consult a professional adviser.