A trademark is an official registration of the words, images, colours, or sounds that make your product, brand or services distinct. Once you’ve registered your trade mark, you’ll be able to legally protect your brand and take action against anyone who uses it without your permission (for example, counterfeiters); you can show that the brand is trademarked by putting the ® symbol next to it and you use this as a useful way to sell or license your brand.
Registering a trademark is a great way for your business to protect its brand identity in the competitive marketplace and by registering your trademark in the UK, you’ll get immediate exclusive rights to use your mark for the goods or services it covers.
Why is trademark registration important?
Trademark registration offers numerous benefits for businesses operating in the UK. Firstly, it provides legal protection against others using or imitating your mark, preventing confusion and potential damage to your reputation. Secondly, a registered trademark acts as a valuable asset, adding value to your business and enhancing its market position. Lastly, it grants you the ability to take legal action against any infringement, ensuring that your brand is safeguarded in the long term.
What can be trademarked?
Very simply, your trademark can include words, sounds, logos, colours, or any combination of these that make your brand or product distinct.
What isn’t allowed includes offensive words or images, misleading, too familiar or non-distinctive, generic shapes, national flags or emblems, and you may not be able to register it if your trademark is similar to another one from another individual or business.
Your registered trademark lasts for 10 years and this guide gives you a step-by-step process on how to register a trademark in the UK. A trademark is registered with the UK Government’s IPO (Intellectual Property Office) and will ensure that your brand is safeguarded and legally protected in the UK and the Isle of Man.
However, a UK trade mark does not protect your brand outside of the UK and the Isle of Man – for example, if you want to have similar legal protection in the USA you will need to repeat the process with the US Government’s trade mark application process – and again repeat the application process in every other country where you want protection.
The registration process
To get started, you can visit the GOV.UK website where you can apply, and here you will need to give details of what you want to register, the personal or company details linked to the trademark, and the types of goods and services you want to use your brand for.
If you want to register different variations of a mark, you can make a series of applications for these, but your trademarks need to look, sound, and mean the same thing, and for more than two trademarks is an additional £50 per mark.
Now you have your trademark and pay the £170 fee for a standard application, the Intellectual Property Office will review the application and search for similar trademarks, and if none are found, they will publish it in the trademarks journal. They will be registered in about two weeks.
The time when you process your application and get your trademark registered is about three months, and this will last for ten years before you need to renew it again so that you can sell, market, or licence your trademark.
Here are the five steps to successfully register a trademark in the UK.
Step 1: Conducting a trademark search
Before proceeding with your trademark registration, you should run a search to ensure that your chosen mark is not already in use or similar to existing trademarks. This search can be done through the official website of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or by hiring a trademark lawyer or using an online service. By conducting a thorough search, you minimize the risk of potential oppositions and increase the chances of a successful registration.
Step 2: Preparing your trademark application
Once you have determined that your mark is unique and available for registration, the next step is to prepare your trademark application. This includes providing a clear representation of your mark, specifying the goods or services it represents, and providing a detailed description of your business activities. It is crucial to be accurate and precise in your application to avoid any potential objections or refusals.
Step 3: Filing your trademark application
After preparing your application, the next step is to file it with the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can submit your application online or by mail, accompanied by the necessary fees. The IPO will review your application and conduct an examination to ensure that it meets the necessary requirements. It is important to note that any errors or omissions in your application can lead to delays or even rejection, so it is advisable to seek professional guidance during this stage.
Step 4: Examination and publication of your trademark
Once your application is filed, the IPO will examine it thoroughly to determine its eligibility for registration. This examination process includes assessing the distinctiveness of your mark, its similarity to existing trademarks, and compliance with legal requirements. If your application passes the examination, it will be published in the official Trademarks Journal, allowing third parties to oppose the registration within a specified period.
Step 5: Opposition period and registration
During the opposition period, which lasts for two months from the publication date, any interested party can oppose your trademark registration if they believe it conflicts with their own rights. If no opposition is raised or successfully resolved, your mark will proceed to registration. You will receive a certificate of registration from the IPO, granting you exclusive rights to use your trademark for the specified goods or services.
How long does it take to register a trademark in the UK?
The registration process can vary but on average it takes four to six months from the filing date to complete the registration process. However, it can easily take longer if any objections or oppositions are raised, requiring additional time for resolution.
Common mistakes to avoid
There are a few common mistakes that you can easily avoid to help the registration process. These include:
- Failing to conduct a comprehensive trademark search before filing your application, leading to potential conflicts or rejections.
- Providing inaccurate or insufficient information in your application, which can result in objections or delays.
- Neglecting to monitor the Trademarks Journal during the opposition period, potentially missing any oppositions raised against your registration.
- Not renewing your trademark registration when required, which can lead to the loss of your exclusive rights.
Renewing your registration
Once your trademark is registered, it’s valid for 10 years from filing date. Don’t forget this renewal date as failure to renew your registration can result in its removal from the register, leaving your brand vulnerable to infringement.
What if my application doesn’t get accepted?
It’s a possibility that your application could be refused. It could be because there’s a similar trademark already registered or another organisation opposes your registration. In either case you could try and speak to the other party to resolve the matter, withdraw your application, or take legal action to defend your application in court, but for this you should use a specialist lawyer.
To avoid a lot of these issues you can carry out a quick search and check online databases to see if trademarks similar to yours exist (try a site like TrademarkEagle.com to search through their database).
How to register a trademark outside the UK
A trademark in the UK only protects your brand in the UK and Isle of Man territories, which means you have a different process for applications made in Jersey, Guernsey, and the intellectual property offices of over 100 other countries, which their details can be found here.
This can be a difficult task for many, but there are websites such as Digip.com, which can help you check the availability of your trademark and file your application to the appropriate offices for you, and you can track and manage your trademarks all in one place.
You can tailor your trademark to be used in a range of different countries or go big and go global and will suggest changes to improve the chances of success, so you can have a plan that is made custom to you and provides the service you’re looking for.
If your business has a unique and valuable brand, product or service then you should consider registering it as a trademark. Once registered, you gain legal protection and can defend against unauthorised use of your brand – for example to protect against counterfeiters.
Our guide helps you understand what’s involved in the application process, how to prepare and submit your application and – importantly – how to renew to keep your brand safe. This guide covers the trade mark process for the UK and if you want to gain legal protection in other countries, you will need to carry out a similar process in each jurisdiction – however lengthy the process, it is often the best way to protect your business brand and intellectual property.