What does a trade mark protect?
A company is said to own both visible and invisible assets.
Visible assets refer to physical items such as property, equipment and vehicles. Invisible assets, while not having a physical presence, may in some cases be of more value to an organisation – with trade marks being a prime example.
Trade marks can be of huge importance to a company as they provide a way of presenting its products (or services) to customers as being different from – and superior to – those of its rivals, so giving it a competitive edge.
Under UK law, trade marks are protected by the Trade Marks Act 1994 and can include the following items, separately or in combination:
- Words (including personal names)
- The shape of goods
What are examples of what can be protected by a trade mark?
Trade marks include the logos and names of many famous companies including Amazon, Microsoft and McDonald’s.
What may be less obvious is that many words which are often used generically to describe a product are actually protected by trade marks in one or more legal jurisdictions meaning that no rival company could use the term to describe their product.
For example, Biro, Jet Ski, or Tarmac.
How much does it cost to register a trade mark in the UK?
The minimum charge to register a trade mark is £170 although it may cost more depending on how many individual items are to be protected.
How long does trade mark protection last?
Trade mark protection lasts for 10 years. It must then be renewed and have been used to remain effective.
Why is it important for a company to protect its trade marks?
Companies often devote considerable time, money and enterprise to creating trade marks that will help their products stand out from the crowd and enable the business to build a strong brand.
An organisation that impinges upon that trade mark is trying to get something for nothing – benefitting from all the resources that have gone into producing the trade mark without having made any contribution itself.
The negative consequences of such activity include:
- The company that created the trade mark may lose customers to the business that has essentially infringed it as its competitive advantage has been diminished
- It may suffer reputational damage if the other organisation’s products and customer service are of lower quality than its own as many customers may believe they are buying from the original company
Do trade marks have to be registered in order to be protected?
It is possible for trade marks that have not been registered to be protected under UK law.
This would rely on the common law of ‘passing off’. Should another business be trying to give the false impression that they are selling your company’s products (or products that you have had some involvement in the production of) then it may be considered that they are unfairly benefitting from the ‘goodwill’ that you have built up among customers over the years.
While this legal option may prove effective in some cases it is often more difficult and costly and it is advisable where possible to register your trade mark.
First, because you will have to prove that the ‘goodwill’ on which your case depends actually exists and, second, because any protection you enjoy will be restricted to the use you have made of your trademark and this may limit you to specific geographical location (e.g. county, city or town) in which you operate.
How does registering your trade mark help protect it?
Registering your trade mark significantly strengthens its level of protection as you are now able to take legal action under the Trade Marks Act 1994 against anyone who infringes it (for example, by putting a logo similar to yours on its products).
Crucially, this protection applies across the UK rather than being restricted to a specific area.
Registering your trade mark can provide further protection as it allows you to use the ® symbol to act as a deterrent against infringement.
Trademarks are assets and they should appear on a company’s asset balance sheet (where an incorporated company is the owner) and these assets can be bought, sold and licenced to third parties for a royalty.
How do I register a trade mark?
In the UK applications to register a trade mark have to be made to the UK Intellectual Property Office who will check if it meets the criteria required.
More information about the application process, including the conditions that your trade mark must meet, is available online.
Each country will have its own Trade Mark register and different criteria for registration will apply in some countries. Sometimes you can protect a trademark in a number of countries by applying for an EU trademark as an example, which covers 27 EU countries in 1 application.
It is strongly recommended, however, that you first obtain expert advice over the suitability of your application.
In addition to the risk of your application not meeting the criteria there is also a danger that you could be infringing upon someone else’s trade mark – either in the UK or around the world.
How can Trademark Eagle help me to protect my trade mark?
Trademark Eagle has a wealth of experience when it comes to helping companies protect and utilise the trade marks they have created with their hard work and endeavour.
Our specialist team have a successful track record of supporting clients and guiding them through the process of protecting their trademarks both in the UK and globally.
We recognise the importance of resolving disputes in the most cost-effective way possible and in the majority of cases are able to settle matters amicably via negotiation without the need for formal legal proceedings.
Crucially our expertise will also afford you the peace of mind of knowing that any proposed trade mark application you are considering making will not infringe upon the rights of any other organisation – with the severe legal, financial and reputational consequences this could have for your company.
Trademark Eagle prides itself on offering the highest levels of customer service and we work at all times with integrity and professionalism to provide you and your company with the support and guidance you need over such an important issue.
We will always be totally transparent about future costs so that you can make an informed decision about the options open to you.
Please get in touch for more information on how we can help you to protect your trade mark:
Call: 01223 208 624
Or complete our online contact form