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A guide to trade marks

What are trade marks?

What is a trade mark?
A trade mark provides protection to the owner of the mark by granting them exclusive rights to use it to identify their goods or services, or to authorize another to use it in return for payment.

What does a trade mark do?
A trade mark provides protection to the owner of the mark by ensuring the exclusive right to use it to identify goods or services, or to authorise another to use it in return for payment.

What are the benefits of registering a trade mark?
By registering for trade mark protection, you will be eligible for several benefits, including:

• Damages in some cases of infringement;

• The right to use the Registered (®) symbol with your trademark;

• An easy process to stop others from using your brand name for domains and usernames across social networking sites; and

• Significantly stronger protection than ‘common law’ marks making it easier to recover your property

Who owns the trade mark?
The person, company or organisation that uses and registers the trade mark owns it. In general the first person, company or organisation to use the trade mark owns it.

Why are trade marks beneficial?
Trade marks promote initiative and enterprise throughout the world, by giving owners recognition and the possibility of financial profit from their marks. Trade mark protection also hinders the efforts of counterfeiters who use similar marks and signs to market inferior products or services.

What protection does registering a trade mark offer?
A trade mark provides protection to the owner of the mark by giving them exclusive rights to the mark to identify their goods or services, or to authorise others to use it in return for payment. The period of protection varies, but a trade mark can be renewed indefinitely.

How long does a trade mark registration last?
A trade mark will stay protected for an initial 10 years; you have the option to renew the registration for a further 10 years and continued to do so indefinitely if you chose to do so.

How are trade mark rights enforced?
Registering your trade mark offers protection, however it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that it is enforced. If someone is infringing our trade mark it is advisable to seek legal advice on how to proceed. If you are advised to take legal action, it can be taken to court where a judge will rule on the infringement case.

Are trade marks valid in every country?
A trade mark registration is only protected in the country, or region in which the application has been filed and granted, in accordance with the law of that country. If you want to use your trade mark in countries other than the UK, you can apply to the trade mark office in each country. However, European and international application systems also exist.

Do trade marks have to registered?
In the UK you can get ‘common law’ rights just by using the trade mark; the mark does not need to be registered to be recognised. In order to ensure that your trade mark is legally protected and that you can bring legal action for any infringement, it is advised that you apply for a trade mark.

Why should I consider registering my trade mark?
A trade mark protects your brand name and image and allows you to take legal action against anyone who uses it without your permission. It allows you to include the Registered (®) symbol with your brand to show that it’s legally yours.

What can and cannot be registered as a trade mark?
A trade mark must be unique and can include:

• Words

• Sounds

• Logos

• Colours

• A combination of any of these

A trade mark cannot:

• Be offensive, e.g. contain swear words

• Describe the goods or services it will relate to, e.g. ‘cotton’ can’t be a trademark for a cotton textile company

• Be misleading

• Be a 3-dimensional shape associated with the trade mark

• Be too common and non-distinctive

• Look too similar to state symbols like flags or hallmarks

What is the difference between a registered and unregistered trade mark?
Trade marks do not necessarily have to be registered with the UK Intellectual Patent Office (UK IPO). If you create a logo or name that you want to use but not register, you can attach the Trade mark symbol (™) which gives you ‘common law’ rights. However trade marks that are registered have stronger legal brand protection.

Can I sell my trade mark?
As a trade mark is classed as Intellectual Property, it is therefore similar to any other property you may own. This means that you are free to sell your trade mark at any stage if you wish to do so.

What is a trade mark license?
A license is a written agreement between the owner and another party which allows them to use the trade mark. The agreement defines the scope with which the third party can use the license. A trade mark license does not have to be recorded in the UK or US; this varies with other countries as some require the license to be recorded in order to be effective.

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