Every business should be aware of its intellectual property. It can become a very valuable asset and where better to start than, with your own business name.
Assuming you’ve chosen a name that falls within the acceptable criteria, then you should be able to trademark it and you don’t necessarily require a ‘trademark lawyer’ to do it for you.
The Intellectual Property Office has a very straightforward system called ‘RightStart’. This means you pay £100 and someone at their end does all the searches and checking to establish that what you’re attempting to trademark is actually allowed. If this fails, you lose your £100. I’d suggest you do some basic checking yourself first as this will show if anyone else already holds this trademark and you can save yourself the cash and decide to think of something else.
If your ‘RightStart’ application succeeds, then that £100 is deducted from the total cost of registering your trademark and you pay the balance (a further £100) in order to proceed to the next stage. If you go ahead without using ‘RightStart’ the total fee is £170, all paid upfront and if you fail you lose it all.
Once it’s established that your attempted trademark qualifies (that it’s unique, not descriptive and doesn’t contain any of the banned words) then it is published in the UK trademarks journal where anyone has a period of 2 months initially to oppose your trademark. This term can be extended upon request. For example if someone needed time to consider whether to oppose your trademark.
Assuming all goes well, your trademark will be registered 2 weeks after the end of the opposition period.
It really is a pretty straightforward process and all the details are available on the Register a UK Trademark website.
The monetary figures quoted in this article relate to registering in one trademark ‘class’. You pay an additional fee for each additional class.
You can choose whether you attempt to trademark a particular word or phrase, or whether you wish to trademark an image, or even a sound ( eg that Intel ‘chime’ you hear on adverts). In some cases, the word itself might not qualify for trademark protection but the visual representation of that same word might. For example, a logo. If you did this, the protection you have is fairly minimal, eg someone else could use that same word themselves so long as the word appeared in a different way.
And of course, the protection only applies within the class that you’ve registered for and within that particular country too. Europe wide and US trademarks become more complex and that’s where a specialist lawyer might be very useful.
Holding your own business name as a trademark certainly isn’t going to make you rich overnight. It may hold very little commercial value to anyone but you. But by trademarking you have some protection in the event of anyone else attempting to use it in a particular country for similar goods and services and as your business grows, that trademark and that protection may well increase in value significantly.
If what is putting you off is the feeling that intellectual property law is complex and that you wouldn’t know where to start with the process of registering a trademark, then I’d encourage you to take a look because in my experience it is not prohibitively expensive and wasn’t particularly complicated.