Trade marks: what are they and why you might want to protect yours

I am very excited to say that we have a GUEST BLOG this week ... 

As a quick introduction, I’m Clare, I run Stanmore IP Limited. I’m a trade mark attorney with over 13 years’ experience working with companies of all sizes including local individuals, charities, large multi-national companies, and everything in between. In January 2015 I set up on my own to be able to work around my young family and to be able to help small businesses directly. I’m covering a few general points about protecting trade marks and why you might want to add it to your to do list for 2017.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is your business identifier. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd of other businesses offering similar products/services. It can be many different things, usually it would be your brand name, product name, your logo, but it could also be the shape of your product, or even the musical jingle you use (think of the Intel sound). Basically it is anything that uniquely identifies your business/product/service. It is the thing(s) that your customers associate only with you and your business. It gives them the guarantee that they know what to expect when they see your trade mark. It’s how you know you’re buying your favourite coffee, or checking your favourite accountants’ website.

Why do I need to register my trade mark?

Lots of business owners believe that having their domain name registered, a Companies House registration, and a Facebook page is the same as brand protection. It isn’t. Those things give you some rights in the name you have chosen, but not much more than the paper they’re written on (literally). Registering your trade mark with the relevant government body provides you with a tangible asset for your business. It gives you certain rights, including the right to use the trade mark and prevent others from using a confusingly similar trade mark for similar goods or services. It also gives you something to sell, to license, even to mortgage if you need to. It gives you certainty which in turn gives key people, like investors, certainty.

How much does it cost and is it worth it?

Using a professional will mean that you incur professional fees. Just like using an accountant. As with all professional services, the fees vary depending on the quality and complexity of the advice, the size of the firm you use etc. On top of any professional fees, the UK government charges £170 for a trade mark application in one “class” of goods or services. They then charge £50 for each extra class. Classes are an administrative tool that the government office uses to identify what business sector(s) you intend to operate in. Most trade marks cover 1-3 classes. In return for your fee, they process your application and if all goes well they issue a registration certificate. Your trade mark is valid for 10 years. So, let’s say your average trade mark application, using a mid-priced professional, will cost less than £1,000 to register. That’s less than £100 a year for the protection. Less than you’ll spend on take away coffees each year. So yep, I would say it is worth it.

Trading overseas

If you trade overseas at all, you should consider protecting your trade mark in all the countries you trade in, before you start trading there. This includes overseas stockists and distributors (if you trade wholesale goods for example). It also should include your country of manufacture if that’s not the UK. Trade mark rights are territorial, so having protection in one country is not sufficient to protect you in other countries. Your trade mark advisor can help you work out which countries to cover, and come up with a cost-effective strategy for protecting the trade mark where you need it.

If you have any questions, or would like further advice or assistance in protecting your trade marks, please feel free to get in touch. I offer a free 30-minute phone consultation which can be booked by emailing me at clare@stanmoreip.com. There is also lots of information available on my website, www.stanmoreip.com

Clare's social media links are below if you would like to give her a follow:

www.facebook.com/stanmoreip    www.twitter.com/stanmoreip    www.instagram.com/stanmoreip

Rachael Savage