As your business grows in scale and reputation, brand protection becomes more and more important.
Registering trademarks for your name, logos and other recognisable brand elements help people identify goods and services as coming from a particular source - you! - and can help set your business apart from the competition, making your work synonymous with these marks. It's one of the most effective ways to protect your company and intellectual property.
Of course it's easy to put these things off, be intimidated by the jargon and concerns over costs and potential legal fees. In reality, a large proportion of trademark applications can be done in-house, relatively inexpensively, without using lawyers and costing only minimal time and effort.
So, where to start...?
Before you think about making an application it’s very important to find out whether or not the trademark you are applying for is already in use by someone else, whether that be your business name or logo elements. Not doing this can result in a lot of wasted time and money.
You can check online for an existing registration with a comprehensive search of the Trademarks Register, held by the UK Intellectual Property Office. If your name and or logo are already registered in the same class (one or more of the 45 classifications banding trademarks by industry / business area), you're unlikely to be successful in your application, so it could be time for a change! Make your brand unique - you don't want another company taking credit for your work, or to be associated with theirs.
If you've held your company name or logo for a long time and don't want to change entirely, refreshing your logo or adding/removing a word from your company name could be enough (and give you a nice excuse to reach out to your existing / previous client base) - though if the other company is boxing in the same ring, be honest with yourself and make sure you are distinct enough from them.
What should we be trademarking?
As your first priority, look to secure trademarks for the most obvious intellectual property and brand assets of your business. You can register trademarks for your business name, key slogans and product names, your logo and other key design elements separately but this will start to add up, so if budget is a factor take time to think about where the real brand value lies and start there.
Consider the following:
Is your logo the crux of your brand and the name you're using just a description of your goods/services? You may want to just trademark your logo alone. If you feel your name is unique and key to your brand, you should consider filing 2-3 applications - logo, name and logo together AND name alone.
Is your logo in one format / colour or do you use multiple logo variants? It’s common practice to register a black and white form of your logo, so the shape and form is protected - this allows you to use other colour variations of the same form. However, if you begin to use a specific colour or selection of colours regularly and that becomes key to your brand, you should consider getting greater protection by registering the colour version(s) as well.
Is the mark you're registering a viable trademark? – i.e. distinctive, not a common name, geography or national flag; clear and not easily confused with any other registered mark. This is by no means an exhaustive list of checks, but it's a good place to start!
Trademark registration is country-specific and may vary from country to country. If you do (or are planning to) trade abroad, it’s advisable to register your marks in those countries as soon as possible too.
And finally, a disclaimer… this article is for guidance only, it’s not direct or legal advice. Although the majority of people should be able to file their own trademark application, if your case is complicated it’s always worth seeking advice from a qualified intellectual property lawyer.
Are you thinking of updating your existing brand identity or starting a new business? Get in touch with our team to see how we can help.