A trade mark is ‘any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services…’ This means that it is not just the name of your business that can be registered, by way of example so can logos, slogans and jingles. If your business uses a combination, for example, a name and an image logo, by registering separately you can gain more extensive protection.
A registered trade mark gives the owner the exclusive right to use their mark for the goods and services in respect of which it is registered. So, if someone uses a mark which is identical to your mark in respect of goods or services which are also identical, they are infringing your mark. Even more than that, if someone uses an identical mark for similar goods and services or a similar mark for identical goods and services, this may also be an infringement of the mark.
A trade mark is also ‘property’, an asset which you can sell or license.
Not every mark is capable of being registered; for example, anything which has already been registered by someone else or anything which is merely descriptive of the goods or services provided are unlikely to be successfully registered.
A search of the trade mark register to establish what has already been registered by other people is the first step in the process of registration. If you are at the conceptual stage of your business, it is worthwhile carrying out some research to ascertain whether or not anyone has already secured the use of the name or logo you have in mind; this can ensure that you can secure registration in the future but it can also avoid being accused of infringement of someone else’s registered trade mark. There are a lot of businesses who take protection of their marks very seriously.
Preparing for registration means understanding the goods and services a client provides or is intending to provide; this is to ensure that when registering the mark all the ‘classes’ are properly identified and that the trade mark is effective for all intended uses.
The next question is to what geographical extent does the client need registration? Is it only the UK or are the goods and services supplied in other geographical locations too? A UK trade mark offers protection only within the UK but for those with business in Europe then a ‘Community mark’ might be a better option.
Trade marks can be valid indefinitely, so long as they are renewed every 10 years and are properly used in the course of business, giving a degree of certainty and security for the ‘brand’ as it develops.
So, whilst it is possible to establish a reputation and a significant link to a mark that is not registered (in some cases this may be your only option if your name or logo is not distinctive) the benefits of a registered mark are, as can be seen from the above, numerous, and of course it is an asset for your business.