Trade marks are often discussed in the news, usually in relation to disputes between large well-known businesses or brands! However, we find that the benefits of them are often misunderstood, or they are believed to be the purview of only big businesses. In fact, the cost of UK trade marks make them a viable option for even small businesses, and the benefits can be substantial in helping protect your business/brand from being copied irrespective of its size.
So, what is a trade mark?
A trade mark is a form of intellectual property that protects something (typically a word or sign) that identifies goods and/or services as being yours. Most commonly a trade mark will be for a business or brand name, or an associated logo, but it can be much more flexible than that. There are even trade marks just for a specific colour or sound!
You have to register a trade mark, and in doing so you have to specify what goods and/or services are to be covered. Trade marks are also specific to the jurisdiction in which they are registered (although there is nothing to prevent you registering the same mark in multiple jurisdictions, in fact it is typically a good idea if you have a multinational presence).
Okay, but why do I want a trade mark?
Well you have invested time, money and a large amount of effort in your business and generating a reputation for it – and that reputation will be attached to whatever names, signs or other marks people associate with your business. A trade mark is a way to ‘claim’ those signs as yours (in respect of your goods and services) and, if necessary, a trade mark can be used to prevent others from imitating your brand.
Certain online market places also have systems in place that allow you to register your trade marks with them, and then a system to help you police that market place for infringements.
Finally, having a trade mark can add additional credence to a business or brand as it allows you to use the recognised registered trade emblem (®) next to the registered sign. This emblem is reserved only for signs that are the subject of a registered trade mark and it can be a criminal offence to use it improperly.
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