It is difficult to avoid trade marks in day to day life. PEPSI, EASYJET, SHELL, GUINNESS, iPad, SELFRIDGES, Virgin are all examples. Trade marks denote the origin and the quality of the products they relate to. A well-known trade mark is often the most identifiable element of a successful product or service. They will often make a customer prefer one product over another. Selecting the trade mark can therefore be crucial and so protection of it is fundamental. The most successful brands are often those that are completely distinctive, e.g. Sony.
Trade marks can be registered in the UK and/or throughout the EU through a single Community Trade Mark and/or in other countries/regions. They can also arise automatically if a mark has been used and has consequently built a reputation. Unregistered trade marks are, however, more difficult to enforce. If you can, it is always better to register.
Some practical tips to help protect your trade marks are set out below:
Consider in which countries you would want to protect your trade mark – i.e. where would the products or services be sold or used?
Have a look on the Trade Marks section of the UK IPO website. Click on ‘Trademarks’ and then ‘Online TM Services’ then ‘Find Trade Marks’ then ‘By mark text or image’. You can then have a look to see if there are any similar or identical trade marks already registered.
The same website contains details on how to register a trade mark. Contact your IP commercialisation organisation – they may be able to put you in contact with a Trade Mark Agent to help with the process.
Use the ™ symbol when your trade mark is unregistered.
Use the ® symbol when the trade mark is registered. DO NOT do this before it is registered. It can be a criminal offence to do so!