Trademark rules might be strict, but registering one lets you officially “own” your company’s name. The tips below will help you register a trademark that’s legally defensible and stands the test of time.
If you don’t trademark your company name, a worst case scenario could see a competitor registering your brand name as their own trademark, legally prohibiting you from using it. That’s why it’s best to start with a name that’s unlikely to be opposed.
Once you’ve decided on the name you want, the steps below will help you secure the legal rights (or “trademark”) to the name. First thing’s first: Make sure you stick to the trademark rules in your country (which, admittedly, are somewhat strict in the UK).
You won’t be able to trademark
- Offensive or taboo words or phrases, names that imply a connection with the government, royalty or local authority, or names that depict any kind of illegal activity.
- A name that describes your goods or services, or any characteristics of them for that matter, with words that aren’t distinctive, e.g. “Cornish Clotted Cream” for cream, or “The Milk Company” for milk.
- A 3-D shape that depicts the goods you are selling, e.g. the shape of an egg for an egg distribution company.
- A name that’s likely to confuse the public – for instance, naming your company “Clover Organics” to give the impression that your goods are organic when they are not.
Check if the name’s already taken
Once you’ve decided on an appropriate name, the next thing to do is to check that the name is available. You’ll be able to do this on the website of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). If the name’s still available, you’ll be able to start the registration process.
Choose your class
When applying for your trademark, you’ll be required to provide a list of the goods and/or services you intend to provide under the name.
The IPO provides 45 classes: 1 – 34 represent classes of goods; 35 – 45 represent classes of services. Go through the IPO list and choose the most appropriate class for your business offering.
Be aware of the costs
Registering a UK trademark online will cost you £170 for one class of goods or services and a further £50 for every other class you apply for.
If you choose to use the IPO Right Start (paper-based) application service, it will cost you £200 for one class of goods or services and a further £50 for every other class you apply for.
The benefit of this service is that you only pay £100 at the time of application and the balance once you receive the IPO’s examination report and choose to proceed with the application.
The application process has three distinct phases
- Phase 1: Data capture – your application details are captured and published on the IPO website.
- Phase 2: Examination – the Intellectual Property Office decides if your application is acceptable and does a thorough search for identical or similar trademarks.
- Phase 3: Publication – once accepted, your application is published and is open to opposition.
If the examiner raises no objections and no other business opposes your application, it will take around four months for your trademark to become officially registered.
Remember to renew your trademark every ten years to keep it in force.