A Trademark is a sign which can distinguish your
goods and services from those of your competitors (you may refer to
your trade mark as your "brand"). It can be for example words,
logos or a combination of both. The only way to register your trade
mark is to apply to The Intellectual Property Office.
A trade mark is a sign which acts to distinguish the goods and
services offered by one undertaking from those offered by other
undertakings. Trade Marks are often seen as the badge of a
business. A Trade Mark can be a very powerful marketing tool
as it enables customers to recognise your business for the quality
of its products or services.
A trade mark can be:
- A word, slogan or phrase
- A symbol or visual logo
- A smell
- The shape of the goods, the visual get up or packaging
- A sound or jingle
- A colour
- A company name
The options for protecting a Trade Mark
Within the United Kingdom there are a number of co-existing
systems which provide protection:
This is a common law tort which acts to protect the goodwill
which a trader has acquired in a mark through use. This
protection arises automatically through use of a mark in
commerce. This protection is acquired without cost to the
owner. However, it can be a very difficult right to prove and
enforce against third parties using a similar mark.
An application can be filed with the United Kingdom Intellectual
Property Office to register a mark in relation to a specific goods
and or services. Essentially this is a formal request
to be granted a monopoly in relation to the use of this mark in
respect of the goods and services cited in the registration.
Generally an application will be rejected if the mark is; not
distinctive; descriptive of the cited goods and or services, a
generic term or the mark is deceptive. Third parties have an
opportunity to object (Oppose) to the proposed registration of the
An application can be filed for a Community Trade Mark
(CTM). This is a unitary system whereby a single application
is filed in respect of the entire EUR geographical
area. A CTM will enjoy protection in the UK by virtue
of our membership of the EU.
In most circumstances it is advisable to make third parties
aware that the Trade Mark in question is considered to be
proprietary right which functions as a trade mark. The
symbols vary according to the type of protection.
- An unregistered mark can be accompanied by the TM
- Registered marks are entitled to use the ®
symbol. It is an offence to use this symbol in relation to
marks which have not been registered. The symbol cannot be
used if the application to register the mark is still pending.
As noted above Trade Marks can be a very important asset.
Despite the different options for protection of a Trade Mark it is
left up to the proprietors to ensure that their rights are not
infringed. Use by a third party can lead to damage to the
reputation of the trade mark and also to a loss of sales.
However, if this use is left unchallenged it is possible for the
third party to accrue rights in the mark such that, after a period
of time, it may not be possible to prevent their use of the
In contrast to the other Intellectual Property Rights trade
marks can be protected indefinitely. This is true of both
common law rights and registrations. A registration once
granted will enjoy protection for 10 years. The mark can then
be renewed for further 10 year periods.