Every business owner should trademark their business name. Here’s how to trademark a name in the UK, and some advice on enforcing your trademark.
What is a trademark?
Think of a trademark as an identifier. Essentially, it’s something you use to represent your business. Trademarks can be:
- Company or product names
For example, when people see your slogan, or hear your jingle, they’ll know it’s your brand.
There are two types of trademarks: registered and unregistered.
- In the UK, you register trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Once you register a trademark, it’s much harder for someone else in your industry to use the same trademark as you.
- You don’t have to register your trademark, but if you don’t, someone else can use it and you may not be able to stop them.
Okay, so now you know what trademarks are. But why is it so important to trademark business names? Let’s take a look.
Why you should trademark a name
There are three reasons why you should trademark any business name:
- Trademarks help you build brand value and customer loyalty.
- If a competitor starts using your trademark, you could lose customers.
- It’s a fairly simple way to protect your company’s reputation. Brand security could, potentially, make it easier for you to secure investment or business loans.
So, how do you trademark your name in the UK? Here’s a guide.
How do I trademark a name in the UK?
In the UK, you trademark a name by:
- Checking the name is available to use
- Picking the right trademark class
- Registering the trademark with the IPO and paying the registration fee
Don’t worry, the process is simpler than it seems. Let’s break it down.
1. Check your chosen name is available
The reality is that you can’t trademark everything.
- First, your name must be distinctive. Anything too vague, offensive or general (like the word “name”) can’t be trademarked.
- Next, you can’t trademark a name if it’s already in use. Check the trademarks database.
- Finally, you can’t trademark country names or other protected terminology.
2. Pick the right trademark class
It’s important you select the right trademark class.
- Decide if you’re trademarking the name for a good or service.
- Identify what sector you’re operating in.
There’s a handy online tool to help you work out what classes to select.
3. Complete the registration form
Once you’ve identified your trademark class and you’ve checked your chosen name is available, complete the registration form online.
- Provide details about your chosen name, including the relevant classes.
- Confirm whether you’re trademarking one word, or whether you want to trademark variations, too.
- Input any other details required to support your application.
- Double check your form – you can’t change anything once it’s submitted.
Most applications are reviewed within about three months. Need it quicker? You’ll need to provide proof of urgency.
So we’ve outlined the basic steps on how to trademark a name in the UK. Now, let’s go over some frequently asked questions about common trademark issues.
What if someone objects to my trademark?
When you file your trademark, it appears in the Trade Marks Journal. At this point, the clock starts ticking, and companies usually have two months to oppose your trademark application.
For example, if your trademark appears on 1 June 2021, the opposition period lasts until 1 August 2021.
If someone opposes your trademark, you should ask an intellectual property lawyer for help.
How long do trademarks last?
Okay, so now we’re clear on how to trademark a name in the UK. But how long does a single trademark last?
Unfortunately, they don’t last long. Trademarks only last 10 years from the day they first appear in the Trade Marks Journal. So, if you filed on 1 August 2020, you must renew on 1 August 2030.
Six months before your renewal date, you’ll receive a filing reminder and a note of your renewal fee. Just remember, if you don’t renew your trademark, you can’t use or enforce it any longer.
How do I enforce my trademark?
It’s pretty easy to enforce your trademark. If someone starts using your trademark, just contact an intellectual property lawyer. They’ll send a cease and desist letter to the other company.
Companies will usually stop infringing once they are made aware that they are wrongly or unknowingly using your trademark, or that you intend to legally assert your trade mark rights.
Unless you trademark important wording, symbols and designs, someone else can legally use them. This makes it harder for customers to find you, and it could stop you from growing your business.
So, if you want to know more about how to trademark a name in the UK, visit the IPO’s website. You can also download their registration checklist.
Some offers on MyWalletHero are from our partners — it’s how we make money and keep this site going. But does that impact our ratings? Nope. Our commitment is to you. If a product isn’t any good, our rating will reflect that, or we won’t list it at all. Also, while we aim to feature the best products available, we do not review every product on the market. Learn more here. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays, Hargreaves Lansdown, HSBC Holdings, Lloyds Banking Group, Mastercard, and Tesco.