It is easy to forget that unprotected ideas are simply out there in the public domain and anyone can take them and use them for their own benefit.
Intangible company assets such as trade marks are sometimes neglected in favour of critical day to day business operations. However, your brand or trade mark may be one of the most valuable assets your business may have (think Apple, Boots, Costa Coffee) so you should protect it using trade mark registration. However, it is important to get registration right so here are a few things to consider before beginning the registration process.
Do a search
Before applying for your trade mark you should do a search through the database of the Intellectual Property Office UK to make sure that names, phrases or symbols that you want to trade mark aren’t already taken. This is essential as you need to make sure that you are not in danger of infringing someone else’s registered trade mark, especially as infringement could leave you and your business open to legal action by the trade mark rights holder. This search will highlight any trade marks, national, international or Community, that designate the UK for protection. If you are thinking of trading internationally then you will need to search internationally.
Make up a name
If you have a new business, product or service, making up a name makes it more likely that the trade mark application will go through without a hitch. Being too literal with your company or product name may throw hurdles in your way as many other companies are likely to have done the same. Using a made-up or ‘coined’ word, as they are known, also makes your business or product stand out amongst competitors – look at Nike, Kodak or Microsoft for example.
A trade mark once registered will last for ten years before the renewal fees are due so before registering your trade mark you should think of where you want your business to be in 12 months or in five years’ time. Then, when you do register your trade mark, register it in all the relevant classifications of goods or services you are intending to trade in, but please be aware if you do not trade in a class of goods or services in which your trade mark is registered within five years from date of registration your trade mark can, if contested, be revoked in the unused classifications.
Enforce your rights
There is little point in registering your trade mark unless you are prepared to enforce it. You will need to keep an eye on your market to ensure that no one is using your trade mark without your permission. Infringement does not automatically lead to court proceedings as most times a simple ‘Cease and Desist’ letter written by an IP Attorney is enough to put an end to the infringement. You should not be tempted to write such a letter yourself as it needs to be carefully worded to ensure you yourself do not get accused of defamation.
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This article first appeared on the British Library’s Business & IP Centre website: View here.