“I have a business idea” shouts one of your friends, hearing him say this overjoys your heart thinking he’s on his way to success. You calmly observe your friend’s excitement about this new innovative business plan. But as a trade mark attorney you cannot stop pointing out the obvious: what about your brand protection? “Where does that sit in your plan?” you ask.
Know what a trade mark is why it is important
A trade mark is your brand, which is the name or logo or slogan your business. Customers will buy the brands that they love.
Make sure you can use the brand
Savvy business owners will registered their trade mark as it gives the owner exclusive rights to the use, so they can prevent anyone else using it without their say so.
If you start your business and use a trade mark that has already been registered you may be sued for trade mark infringement and have to rebrand.
Doing a search beforehand to make sure that the mark is available to be registered is an important first step.
Using an expert to conduct the search is wise as it is not only identical marks but similar marks that are protected. If any registrations are identified that could cause confusion, it would be better and cheaper to choose a new name before launch than running into trouble later on. There is no point in spending money in building up a brand that actually belongs to someone else.
In 2015, EUIPO received 89 412 EUTM applications for trade mark protection from EU-28 Member States, while during 2014, EUIPO received 82 602 EUTM applications. Compare that to the UK where in 2015 there were 54,320 national UK applications filed at the IPO (49,201 by UK-based applicants).
Domain names and Company Names
Owning the domain name or company name will not give you exclusive rights or ownership of the name. It simply means that someone else cannot use the identical domain or company name. They can however use a domain with a different ending or a company name that is so similar to yours. It is only a trade mark registration that gives you the right to ask someone else to stop using your name.
A real world example
A Newbury-based personal stylist and dress agency is re-launching with a new name, Frankie and Ruby. The business, originally called Victoria’s Wardrobe, was set up by Victoria Lochhead to help busy people know their style “rules” and to get the most out of their clothes shopping time. Following an approach from a company in the UK also called Victoria’s Wardrobe, Victoria was told that the brand name had recently been trademarked. Instead of closing shop, she took the opportunity to rebrand and diversify her offering. Victoria said: “Two months ago, I had to change my business name as someone else had been clever enough to trademark it. Given the time, effort and energy I’d put into the brand, I thought it was devastating. Victoria however took a positive step and changed her name to something that could be trade marked and allow her business to grow. See the full story here
Register the trade mark
With a little planning ahead, your business will be able to protect its brand by registering it as a trade mark. This will give you exclusive rights and ownership of the brand name and avoid the disruption of being sued for trade mark infringement or having to rebrand.
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