What is a trademark?

A trademark can be a name, a word, a phrase, a logo or symbol, which identifies and distinguishes your goods or services as belonging to your business. Examples include brand names, slogans and logos.

Trademarks can be registered or unregistered. Unregistered trademarks may be protected by common law, under the rules of ‘passing off’. These laws protect a business from others who might want to copy its name or branding, if that copying leads to confusion in the eyes of the public.

How do I register a Trademark?

You can register your trademark in the UK, across Europe, in the US and in many other countries worldwide. When registering your trademark, you’ll be offered 42 different trademark classes which cover all types of goods, services, products, and industries. You can choose any class (or even, all 42) to register in, but you should bear in mind that you’ll have to pay for each class. So, it’s advisable just to pick the areas that are most relevant to your business.

How do I know if I can register this as a Trademark?

Generally, a trademark is registerable, if it is unique and distinctive.

‘Unique’ means that it’s not being used by anyone else in the same industry or business area. ‘Distinctive’ means that the name you want to register is not already in common use. That said, even if your chosen trademark is already a commonly-used name or phrase, it may still be registered as a trademark if it’s not common in your particular industry or business area.

An example of this would be the trademark ‘Apple’. The word ‘Apple’ can’t be registered as a trademark by someone who is selling fruit, as it’s a commonly used word in that industry. However, someone in the electronics industry, or the music recording industry, would be able to register the name ‘Apple’ (not anymore, of course!) because this word is distinctive within that industry.

Why bother registering a Trademark?

Smaller business owners may assume that trademarking is just for large companies or global brands. However, protecting your business from competition and protecting your brand identity are equally as important for small businesses as for large corporations.

The most common trademarks registered by small businesses are usually brand logos. But it is also becoming more common and more valuable to register the company’s name or brand (where possible) and even slogans too. Trademarking these company ‘assets’ early on can be very sensible as a trademark prevents others from using similar marks (which would dilute your uniqueness or cause confusion in the market) and they give your business a valuable business asset which gives your business a much better reputation and higher estimation in the eyes of your customers, and is considered to be a valuable business asset by investors.

Trademarking makes good business sense and can be carried out for a lot less than you may think.

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