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A trademark is used to differentiate one company and its products and services from another’s.

They can also be a useful way to develop your own business. For example if you have a product or service that you offer to a particular market segment, you can name it and protect it with a trademark.

Trademarks can also stop companies ‘passing off’ your goods as theirs, as they ensure the goodwill and reputation you have built up stays with you and cannot be commercialised by someone else.

But do bear in mind that you should think through whether the cost of registering a trademark will give you a commercial advantage as well as protecting your brand. If there is no commercial reason for doing it, you may be spending money unnecessarily.

  • Trademarks can be words, a graphic symbol (or ‘logo’), or words together with a graphic symbol. A sound, colour, shape or another ’sign’ that distinguishes the services or products of one company from another can also be registered as a trademark. (Cadbury has trademarked the type style and colour of its Dairy Milk brand.)
  • A trademark can be two-dimensional or 3 dimensional. (The tail fin designs of airline jets are generally trademarked.)
  • A trademark generally lasts for 10 years from initial registration and canoe extended indefinitely.
  • A trademark needs to be registered. You can register it for the UK, for Europe and for any country in the world or for the entirety of the world.
  • There are several ways to do this - you can use a trademark attorney who will guide you through the process. This can save you time and money as you will get valuable advice if you need to contest anything down the line.
  • Or you can file your application online or using a paper submission through the Government-run Intellectual Property Office.  They have a searchable library of register trademarks so you can check to see whether the trademark you want is available in the classes you want. See https://www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property
  • When you decide to register a trademark, you have to decide which of 45 classes you want your trademark to be applied to. Classes 1-34 relate to goods and 35-45 relate to services. You can choose as many as you want when you first register or you can add them at a later date. The classes and classification system are all internationally agreed.
  • You cannot register several international recognised symbols as a trademark or part of a trademark. These include flags, hallmarks, official symbols and other emblems, as well as the names or abbreviations of international organisations.  Nor can you register it if it is descriptive, not sufficiently distinct, is a geographical reference, a common name or if someone else has registered it for the goods or services that you provide.
  • If you have registered a trademark, you can signify this by using the internationally recognised trademark symbol next to your trademark.

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Erica Wolfe-Murray

Executive Director / Head of content

Author / Publisher / Innovation driver using clients’ intellectual assets/IP and Founder of Lola Media Ltd