A trade mark protects things like brands, business names, product names, advertising slogans and logos.  If you have a business idea for a new service offering, this may be the best and only way to gain some protection.  A good example is eBay.  There are other online auction services, but the reputation eBay has built, and the strength of their brand steers people to use them in preference to others.

A Trade Mark cannot be descriptive, or already in use for the same goods or services. So you could not have "Hard Wearing Shoes" as a Trade Mark because it is just describing the product.

You can create a trade mark by just using a name or logo image. So if you set up a plumbing business and call it "Susan's Plumbing" then that is an unregistered Trade Mark; but to stop anybody else setting up a business called Susan's Plumbing you would have to sue them and show that it was damaging your business. Part of the issue would be geography. It would be difficult to show that a Susan's Plumbing business set up in Glasgow was damaging Susan's Plumbing in Hastings.

If you have a Registered Trade Mark then you have an automatic right to stop anybody else using it to sell the same goods and services. You do not have to sue them or show loss.

An important point to know is that Trade Marks apply to specific classes of goods and services. So a Trade Mark that was only registered for sports equipment would not cover books on sports training. For that you would also need to register the Trade Mark under books as well.

It currently costs 200 to register a Trade Mark plus 50 for each class of goods. The Trade Mark applies to the UK but you can also get a European Trade Mark that applies throughout Europe. Other jurisdictions like the USA have similar trade mark systems.

How we can help

Before you apply for a Trade Mark it is essential to conduct a Trade Mark search to check for availability and conflicts. It is very risky to start designing packaging and advertising campaigns before checking the position on Trade Marks. We have seen situations where tens of thousands of pounds of packaging had to be scrapped because of this. 

Our Discovery Review Service can help you apply for a Trade Mark by carrying out a Trade Mark search for you. To get more free advice from our Enterprise Service just apply for our Discovery Review Pack by clicking the free pack button at the top of this page. Complete the forms with details of the business or product that you would like to protect and we will do the rest.

We also recommend the book written by our experts the Dummies Guide to Intellectual Property

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