Registering a trademark may seem like a hassle but it has many benefits that shouldn’t be dismissed. If you’re setting up a limited company, trademarking can be a good way to protect your brand and your name, which is sure to give you peace of mind as you go about your day.
Given the protections offered by trademarking, it is worth spending some time consider whether trademarking your business can be a good idea.
Please bear in mind that this article provides general advice on the trademarking process. It is not a replacement for legal advice. We would strongly recommend that you seek appropriate advice or carry out your own research prior to making any application.
What Does it Mean to Register a Trademark?
When you trademark something, such as your business name or even the name of your products, you may be able to protect your business and brand more easily.
You’ll have a greater degree of control over your brand, so you can sell it to someone else or licence if you want. You may also be able to take someone to court if they use your trademarked assets without permission. Also, you can add the ® symbol next to the trademarked name, which prevents others from using it.
Again, we want to reiterate that it’s important to be absolutely sure of whether you can, in fact, trademark your business – getting legal advice from a professional is a must!
What About Unregistered Trademarks?
If you haven’t registered your business name, brand or product name, you may be able to use what’s called an unregistered trademark. Bear in mind that this doesn’t have the same protection as a registered one, so you may have difficulties proving the assets belong to you if you end up having a dispute with someone.
Unregistered marks often appear next to names with the ‘TM’ symbol, but, once more, you should get professional legal advice before using it, especially if you’re worried about the legalities of it all.
To be successful with an unregistered trademark, you’ll likely need to show without a doubt that the mark is yours, that you’ve been harmed by another person’s use of the trademark, and that you’ve built goodwill associated with the mark.
This ‘goodwill’ can mean how recognisable the mark is – your customers should want to purchase from you because they recognise your brand. As mentioned, it can be hard to showcase this, which is why most businesses prefer to register a trademark instead.
What You May Be Able to Register (And What You Won’t)
Your trademark has to be easily recognisable, and it can include words, your logo, colours, and more. However, you can’t register offensive words or images, and your trademark can’t be a description of the services you’re providing. In addition, you can’t trademark any misleading words about your business or words and expressions that are too common and not unique.
You should first search the trademark database to ensure no one has trademarked anything with the same name or brand, as yours can’t be similar to what already exists out there.
Benefits of Trademarking Your Business
Your business name and your ideas are out in public, which means anyone can use them. However, this is not the case when you have a trademark, since other similar companies won’t be able to use your name and other elements of your business when you register it.
We also understand that you may focus more on running your daily operations instead of worrying about trademarking the business, since it’s not as critical. However, doing so can be extremely valuable so, while you don’t really have to trademark your business, it can offer benefits like the following:
Create Value in Your Business
Many companies prefer to invest in a business that has trademarked its main products, brand or name, which means that, when it comes time to sell, merge or franchise your business, you have a better chance of succeeding at it with a registered trademark.
Avoid Having to Change Your Name
If you’ve spent time, money and effort creating a successful business, the last thing you want is to have to change your company’s name. This can happen if you haven’t registered your company, but someone else with a similar business, name, logo or products did – you may have to make changes to your business to avoid issues that can prevent you from operating.
Rebranding can take up more time and money, so you’ll want to avoid that if possible. Registering your business is a good way to start.
Get Protection Against Your Competitors
When you trademark your business, you’re making it more difficult, if not impossible, for competitors to copy your business. To ensure maximum protection, trademark the business in the countries you operate in and trademark any classes of products – or services – that you can register.
This will further prevent people from imitating what you’re doing and stealing customers or ideas.
Again, it’s important to first verify if you’re allowed to do it, so a professional specialising in this law will be able to advise your particular case.
Keep Your Reputation
This is something most people may not consider but which is, nonetheless, critical. Suppose someone is allowed to use your name or brand with impunity. In that case, whether they’re copying your ideas to improve their business or using your name to blemish your business maliciously – your reputation and success can suffer.
To avoid this and ensure that your reputation remains intact no matter what, you can trademark your business. If someone starts using trademarked assets, you can take legal action against them and have the peace of mind of knowing that the law is on your side.
Don’t Waste Time
Another reason to trademark your business is that, if you infringe on someone else’s trademark, you may be in for a long, time-consuming process even if by accident. This will impact your day-to-day and can affect product manufacturing as well. Your customers won’t receive their items and your business and reputation can take a hit.
Get Trademarked in Other Countries
Registering a trademark in the UK can make it easier to get trademarked in other countries, making expanding a thousand times easier. You’ll have rights internationally and will be able to take your business in the direction you’ve always wanted to take it.
How to Register a Trademark in the UK
After researching whether you can actually use a certain name, you must select who is registering the trademark – whether you’re doing it on behalf of yourself or a company or if a lawyer is doing it. After filling out some details, you must enter the words or numbers that make up your trademark, although this is different if you’re trademarking something like music.
You’ll also need to present an advanced format of the trademark (with more details instead of just the name) and upload an image. You must know if you need a single or series trademark as well, so have this in mind when you’re registering – a single trademark is for one word, sentence or design, for example, and a series is the variations of a particular word, expression, logo, etc. This might not be necessary, so think about if you really need it.
Another thing you need to know is the class of the trademark, which is basically the group your trademark will come under. Your business will only be protected for the products and services you included in this part, so ensure that you make the right choice. If you sell musical instruments, you’ll have to put down class 15, for instance.
Do You Need to Register a Trademark as a Sole Trader?
If you don’t own a limited company, you might wonder whether you should trademark your business. While you don’t actually need to do it, you can benefit from many advantages, as we’ve explained above. The difference with limited companies is that you have to register your name as a trademark when you’re a sole trader.
This is because you run your business as an individual, not as a company – by trademarking it, you’ll stop people from trading under your business name.
Will I Have to Re-Register a Trademark?
Trademarks don’t last forever. They have to be renewed every 10 years if you want to keep enjoying the benefits they offer. You can renew it within the six months before and after the expiration date, although you won’t be able to do it online if you do it after.
As contractor accountants, we understand there are many things you need to take into account when you become a business owner, but we can help by taking the hassle out of your accounts, which will already free up a lot of your time!
Once more, this article offers general advice on the trademarking process and is not a replacement for legal advice. So, seek appropriate advice before you make an application, as this can save you a lot of issues down the line.