Trademarks, logos and brands have become some of the most valuable business assets, often far exceeding the value of physical business assets. Having a trademark enables a business to distinguish its goods and services from those of its competitors, and in the case of well-known luxury goods brands the mere placing of a trademark on a product enables the trade mark owner to command a premium price for the product.
Registering a trademark gives a trademark owner certain monopoly rights to the mark, and the ability to prevent others from using the mark that is the same or similar. This is particularly important with the internet, where a registered trade mark enables the owner to prevent others from emulating their brand by registering similar domains and creating copycat websites much more easily than if one is forced to rely on common law protections such as “passing off”.
A registered trademark is also a powerful tool to prevent counterfeit goods being brought into the UK, and enables trading standards officers and the police to use statutory powers to seize fake goods that improperly take advantage of registered trademarks.
Registered trademarks are not simply limited to words and logos. They can also include slogans, numbers, colours and even musical jingles.
Trademarks are registered by reference to particular categories (called “classes”) of goods and services. It is important to get good advice to make sure that you apply for registration of your trademark in the correct category.
Like patents, trademarks are territorial. This means that they need to be registered in each jurisdiction in which you wish to obtain the benefits of registration.
There are three main ways to register a trademark:
- Nationally: You can register your trademark in each individual country in which you plan to offer your goods and services. So if you plan to operate your business only in the UK, you would only register your trademark in the UK
- Regionally: The European Union (‘EU’) offers the ability to register a trademark across all EU member states with a single registration, so if you are planning to offer your goods and services across more than one EU member state then you should consider an EU trade mark
- Internationally: Finally, if you require even wider protection, it is possible to register your trade mark in up to 92 countries worldwide, by making an international application under what is called the Madrid Protocol. This requires you to have applied for a trade mark in at least one participating country (such as the UK) first, before applying under the Madrid Protocol
Once you have obtained a registered brand for your trade mark in a jurisdiction, you can use the ® symbol to tell people that your mark is registered. Until then you may choose to use the TM symbol alongside your mark to indicate that you consider the mark to be commercially valuable and connected with your business, but that it has not yet been registered. It is important to note that it is unlawful in many countries, including the UK, to use the ® symbol in conjunction with a trade mark that has not yet been registered.
At Sherrards we can help you to register your trademarks and brands across the world, and can advise you how to navigate through this complex area. We can also help you to licence your trademarks nationally and internationally, or to acquire the right to use someone else’s trademarks as part of your business.
From time to time it may be necessary for you to prevent other businesses from trying to emulate your business, copy your trademarks, or pass themselves off as your business. We have a proven track record of tackling trade mark infringement, and enforcing trade mark owners’ rights.