As part of the anticipation and enthusiasm of starting a new business, entrepreneurs typically settle on a trading name, secure domain name and often incorporate their business at Companies House. Does this protect the brand itself though? The short answer is no. Brand protection, such as trademark, is a separate consideration which is not achieved by these measures and which often goes neglected.
Here at LawBite we are frequently asked whether putting trademark protection in place is worth the cost and effort involved. This post hopefully helps to answer the question! Trademarks can be registered for many different aspects of a brand, including names, logos, slogans, shapes and even things like sounds, colours and multimedia sequences. If you unsure about your business' position regarding IP and trademark, please take advantage of our Free Intellectual Property Checklist which includes a FREE 15-minute consultation with a lawyer.
Advantages of having a registered trademark
Trademarks, once registered, give the owner the exclusive right to use that mark for the goods/services covered by the registration for a 10-year period. This essentially prevents third parties from trading in identical or similar goods/services using identical or confusingly similar branding.
Does this mean that copycats have free reign to mimic and use your branding if you don’t have trademark protection? Unfortunately, not necessarily, since businesses do build up rights in a mark just by using it. That said, unregistered rights do not offer nearly the same level of protection as registered trademarks.
Trademark infringement consists of another party using an identical or similar mark in the same or a similar field (which must additionally in some cases cause confusion among consumers). But with unregistered rights, the requirements are much higher to prove infringement than with registered rights. This includes having to show that you’ve built up sufficient goodwill in your brand and have suffered damage. Without trademarks, these cases are notoriously difficult, expensive and time-consuming to prove. The burden of proof is also effectively on the aggrieved party.
Trademark registration is also a key basis for obtaining relief against domain name squatters, protecting your online trading. Another advantage of trademarking is the conflict search which is carried out as part of the pre-application checks by any prudent trademark specialist. Since trademarks may be opposed by earlier rightsholders, this conflict check helps to flesh out problems with pre-existing registered marks and ensure that your mark is clear to use. It is clearly better to find out that a mark is already taken as early as possible, rather than after having spent time and money on branding and subsequently having to re-brand or ultimately face a costly dispute.
If you’re looking to eventually franchise, get investment or ultimately sell your business, having trademark protection in place for the brand will also be one of the key things third parties look for, given the significant value it adds to the business. Knowing that the valuation of Google and Apple is said to be roughly $44.3 billion and $42.8 billion respectively, you can quickly realise the value of trademarking. Not bad for an intangible asset!
How to get your business assessed
Most of the big brands with which we’re all familiar have forked out tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds securing registered rights in their branding over time. Whilst start-ups and SMEs don’t need to follow suit, protecting one or two of the main branding elements (e.g name/logo) as trademarks can be accomplished relatively quickly and inexpensively. The above hopefully helps to demonstrate why this is so valuable and we have a range of new Trademark specific products that are designed to suit your business whatever stage you’re at.
Our IP expert LawBrief, Laura Symons, outlines the benefits of these products in her recent article. If you want to find out more about what aspects of your brand may be registrable as a trademark and exactly what is involved in the process (including fees), LawBite is on hand to help!
Remember, to check your business' position regarding IP and trademark, please do make use of the Free Intellectual Property Checklist and find out how you can protect your business brand today.
To buy the right Trademark product for your business or to receive trademark advice, please enter an enquiry or call us today on: 0845 241 1847 to speak to a member of our friendly Client Care Team. LawBite can offer IP legal advice covering all aspects of intellectual property law and provides fixed-price no-obligation quotes too.