Protecting your brand in the competitive business landscape is crucial to maintaining a unique identity and securing your market presence. Many small business owners, however, harbour a common misconception: assuming that trademarking their logo alone will safeguard their business name.
Unfortunately, this assumption can lead to potential vulnerabilities. The extent of protection a trademark provides lies in the specific representation filed with a trademark registry. When it comes to trademark registration, it's essential to understand the diverse forms of intellectual property that can be safeguarded.
Registered trademarks encompass not only words but also logos, sounds, smells, colours, and more. Merely filing a visually distinct graphical representation of a particular word may not guarantee exclusive protection for that word itself. Logo trademarks can sometimes be the sole means of obtaining trademark protection for a highly descriptive business name.
This article serves as a comprehensive guide on effectively trademarking your logo, empowering you to unlock your brand's full potential. By understanding the intricacies of logo trademark registration, you can fortify your brand's legal position in a competitive marketplace.
How do you trademark a logo?
Applying for a logo trademark isn’t different from applying for any other type. There are some specific considerations including:
- Should you file in colour or black/white, or both?
- Do you need to disclaim any elements of the logo?
- Is the logo going to be limited to any combination of colours?
Are there any words that are an integral part of the logo?
How do I check if a logo has been trademarked?
To check if a logo has been trademarked in the UK, you can search the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website. On the UK IPO website, navigate to the "Search for a trade mark" section. You can typically find this under the "Trademarks" or "Intellectual Property" menu. Simply enter the relevant details of the logo you want to search for, such as the logo's representation, relevant keywords, or owner's name. You can use various search criteria to refine your search.
The search results will provide you with information about any registered trademarks that match your search criteria. You can check the details of each trademark to determine if your logo has been trademarked.
It’s challenging to search for trademarked logos using free-to-use tools. If exploring the trademark includes words, it’s much more straightforward.
For a purely graphical logo, it’s advisable to instruct an experienced trade mark solicitor to undertake an external specialist search. Although there’s an added, it can save you money and peace of mind knowing that the risk of your application being challenged during the application process or in the future is mitigated.
How much does it cost to trademark a logo?
The UK Intellectual Property Office fee is £170 for filing a trademark in 1 class and an additional £50 for filing in each extra class. There can also be other trademark fees if, for example, you file a series application with more than two marks in the series or the mark is a certification or collective impact.
At LawBite, we can help you prepare, file and manage a UK trademark application on your behalf to help you protect your business. Visit our Trademark packages to find out more.
How long does it take to trademark a logo?
If there are no issues, the trademark registration process usually takes 3 to 4 months from the application for your trade mark to be granted.
Can a logo be trademarked and protected by copyright?
A logo can be protected by both trademarks and copyright. The logo would be considered a “work” under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright protection would arise automatically in the work and can be enforced against copiers irrespective of how the logo is used.
Trademarks are more limiting in that a trademark would only protect against the use of the logo in connection with defined goods and services. However, A trademark is a monopoly right, meaning it’s easier to enforce than a copyright. Copyright and trademarks can provide a good balance of protection for your logo.
What is trademark infringement?
If your trademark logo is used without your consent, this may be trademark infringement. Trademarks protect a logo in connection with defined goods and services. Once you discover that your trademark is being infringed, the first step is to understand the scope of the infringement before taking any further steps.
Once you have all the facts, a Cease and Desist Letter should be sent to the infringer. It’s important to comply with the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct provisions when sending any correspondence to an infringer. It’s also important to keep your correspondence factual and on point.
If the infringer doesn’t agree to cease using the mark and/or pay damages or an account of profits, you may have to consider issuing a legal claim against the infringer. Most cases are settled long before trial, but it’s vital to consider your claim strategy before the issuance of proceedings. Once proceedings are issued, you’re potentially liable for costs if you later withdraw your claim without a Settlement Agreement in place.
How long does a trademark last?
A trademark remains in full force and effect for 10 years from its filing date. A renewal fee would then need to be paid to keep the trademark alive for a further period of 10 years.
How to describe a trademark logo
Describing a trademark logo is an essential step in the process of trademarking a logo. A trademark logo serves as a visual representation of a company, brand, or product and is a valuable asset that distinguishes it from competitors.
When describing a trademark logo, it’s crucial to provide a comprehensive and accurate depiction that captures its unique elements. Start by identifying the central design elements, such as shapes, colours, and typography. Describe the arrangement and composition of these elements, paying attention to any distinctive features or motifs.
Additionally, note any text, slogans, or taglines incorporated into the logo. It’s important to provide specific details about the colour scheme, including colour codes or Pantone numbers, to ensure precise reproduction.
Finally, emphasise the overall impression and intended message conveyed by the logo. A well-described trademark logo will assist in the trademark registration process and safeguard the brand's identity and market presence.
Can I protect my logo without a trademark?
Yes, as well as through copyright (see above), you can protect your logo to some extent without doing any trademark registration. For example, you may have obtained a common law right through consistent and extensive use of your logo in connection with your business.
This is known as protection against passing off. These rights offer some level of protection within the geographical area where you have established a reputation and goodwill with your logo.
However, common law rights can be challenging to enforce and may not provide the same level of protection as a registered trademark. In addition, building a solid brand and establishing a reputation around your logo can help deter others from infringing on your intellectual property.
By consistently using your logo and developing a distinctive brand identity, you can create recognition and association between your logo and your products or services. This can make it more difficult for others to copy or use a similar mark that imitates your logo without facing reputational consequences.
While these methods offer some level of protection, they need to gain the robustness and enforceability of a trade mark. Registering your logo as a trademark provides additional legal benefits, including domestic/international protection, a presumption of ownership, and the ability to take legal action against infringers.
Get legal assistance from LawBite
At LawBite, our trademark lawyers are well-versed in providing trademark legal advice for various UK, EU and US industries.
Our trademark lawyers can help you quickly and cost-effectively to:
- Work out which trademarks you own or could own
- Provide legal advice on how to protect your brand assets
- Help you maximise the commercial potential of your trademarks
- Develop trademark clearance and filing strategies
Help you avoid infringing other people's trademarks
Our trademark infringement lawyers in the UK also deal with contentious issues, including:
- Investigating suspected infringement of a trademark in the UK
- Advising on the tests for determining what amounts to infringement
Helping you understand your options for defending a trademark infringement claim
We’re committed to helping you make the most of your brand assets, whether through offering advice on searching and filing or helping you resolve brand disputes. To learn more, book a free 15 minute consultation today or call us on 020 3808 8314.