What is a Company Trademark?
In simple terms, a trademark is a unique image or label that can be recognised and associated with a company. The trademark can help to distinguish a company from their competitors and other companies in different industries.
The trademarks can be an important piece of company identity but can get overlooked due to owners having other worries on their mind, such as registering and running the company. Once you're ready to register your trademark, it is best to do it in the name of the company rather than you as an individual. That way, if you decide to leave or sell the company, the trademark can remain with them.
A trademark can take many forms, it can be an image or icon, stylised text, shapes, sounds, colours or logos that can be associated with your brand. A well known example of a trademark is one that's well known, like the golden arches.
Once a trademark has been officially registered, it cannot be used or copied by anyone other than owner. However, depending on the class that the trademark falls under it is possible for another company to register one that is similar or the same as yours, so long as it is in a different class. There are currently 45 different classes to choose from (for a full list check out the Gov.uk website) so you could have 3 different companies using the same trademark of a daffodil, one could be daffodil catering, another one could be daffodil electronics and the other could be daffodil tuition. But because they are all in different classes, they could use the same trademark.
You should choose your class very carefully, as an incorrect filing could mean your trademark becomes worthless to you.
Things to Note When Registering a Trademark
There are certain rules that you have to follow when registering your trademark. This can include, but is not limited to:
- No common surnames or geographical names
- This helps to limit customer confusion
- You are prohibited from using anything that could imply links to the royal family.
If you are interested in protecting your brand and good name, it makes sense to register your trademark so that it can be protected. Your trademark can stay in place indefinitely and can be passed down through generations along with the company.
In order to keep the trademark running indefinitely:
- You must pay the fees in order to keep it in force (renewable every 10 years)
- It must be identified as a trademark by ®
- It must not become generic, such as a noun or verb that is commonly used.
- It has to be used in commerce
Before you Register, Check for Infringements
When registering your trademark, make sure that your design doesn't infringe on anyone elses and that you are able to use it freely. This may again depend on the class that you are entering into. If someone already in that class has a design similar to yours, you will have to revisit the drawing board.
In order to check if a similar trademark is being used, you can use the Gov.uk search tool which can search by registered number, owner or keyword or image. If the trademark doesn't appear there, you can use the Gov.uk trade mark journal to see amendments and new applications made within the last week.
Also, think about how far you want your protection to reach. Right now you may be starting out and only want UK protection, but there is the option to expand into Europe, specify individual countries, or international. Think about your future expansion plans and where you want your company to go.
If you think you're ready to register your trademark, then you can apply through the Gov.uk website.
Ensure Your Trademark is Being Used Correctly
Incorrect use of your trademark can lead to damage being done to your company's reputation. You must keep an eye on competitors and make sure that they are not using any imagery that is similar to yours within the same class. You must also make sure that they are not trading off your name by passing their goods and services as yours.
If you discover someone that is infringing on your trademark, you can seek the help of a solicitor that specialises in UK trademark infringement in order to bring charges against them.