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How to trade mark a company name and logo

Woman sat at desk typing on keyboard

If you own a business or have a stake in a company, you might come across the question of how to copyright a brand name or logo.

Actually, the best way to protect your company’s unique brand identity, like your name and logo, isn’t to rely on automatic copyright, but to trade mark it. This stops others from copying or using it without your permission.

Generally speaking, to trademark a company name and logo, you need to:

  1. Ensure it fits within official guidelines.
  2. Make sure it doesn’t already exist.
  3. Submit an application and pay a fee.
  4. Resolve any disputes – if you need to.

Depending on you situation, this can be a long, confusing and expensive process. We’ve outlined the basics in this guide, but our intellectual property lawyers can make sure your business is represented correctly. If you want help trade marking your company name and logo, get in touch.

What’s the difference between copyright and trade mark?

It’s a common misconception that you need to take action to copyright a brand name or logo. In fact, anything original that you create is automatically protected under copyright. People aren’t allowed to reproduce or sell your copyrighted work without permission.

Copyright applies to original material that you have physically created, such as written work, artwork, music or film, among other things. An original logo displaying words or images in a unique way is subject to copyright, but a brand name isn’t.

There is no official register of copyrighted works in the UK, which means it can be very hard to raise a dispute if someone reproduces or uses your logo without asking. But, you can register a trade mark for different aspects of your company’s brand identity, including words, sounds and images.

Trade marking lets you legally protect your name and logo, creating a source of public proof that can help stop others from using it or copying it without permission. Something that has been trademarked can have an ‘®’ symbol placed next to it, showing it belongs to somebody and can’t be used by others. It also means you can sell or license your brand to someone else.

How to trade mark your company’s name and logo

To register a trademark for your company’s name and logo in the UK, there are four steps – each of which we’ve broken into more detail below:

  1. Ensure it fits within official guidelines.
  2. Make sure it doesn’t already exist.
  3. Submit an application and pay a fee.
  4. Resolve any disputes (if necessary).

This process can take about four months. If approved, your trade mark will last for 10 years, and then you’ll need to apply to renew it.

  1. Ensure your trade mark fits within official guidelines

While it’s possible to trade mark words, images, colours and sounds, certain things are not allowed. You can’t trade mark:

  • Anything offensive.
  • A sole word or phrase that describes what the product or service is (e.g. ‘coffee beans’, or ‘shoelaces’).
  • A phrase that is too common, vague or disconnected from your product (e.g. ‘the best service’).
  • Anything that looks like a government symbol or flag (outlined in the World Intellectual Property Organization guidance).
  • State anything that isn’t true (e.g. ‘gluten free’ if it isn’t gluten free).
  1. Check to see if it already exists

Before submitting an application, make sure your trade mark, or one that’s very similar, hasn’t already been registered. You can search for a trade mark on the intellectual property database. Consider using variations of spelling and phrasing so you don’t miss anything.

If you find it already exists, or a very similar one has been registered, you can ask the owner for permission to register yours. You’ll need to get a letter of consent, which they must:

  • Write on their company paper.
  • Reference your trade mark’s application number.
  • State they agree you can register your mark and use it.
  • Sign it, with their name and position.

This letter needs to be included in your application.

  1. Submit an application and pay a fee

You can either apply online or fill out a written form and fee sheet and mail them to the Intellectual Property Office. Fees are likely to be around at least £170, going higher depending on how many industries, or classes, you want your trademark to apply to.

Keep in mind if you want to trade mark your company name or logo in a different country, there will be a separate process and application.

  1. After your application has been sent

You should get feedback on your application in 20 days, indicating if it will go forward. If there are issues, you’ll have two months to resolve them. You may be able to request a hearing to defend your application.

When issues are sorted, or if there are no problems in the first place, your trade mark will be published in the official trademarks journal for two months where people can oppose your application. If they do, you can try to negotiate, or defend your application.

If you successfully make it through these two stages, your trade mark will be registered and you’ll get a certificate. You must update the trade mark register if you change your details, and can object to any proposed trademarks that are too similar to your own. After 10 years, you have to apply to renew your trade mark.

Creating a brand identity can be a vital part of ensuring your company’s success, and trade marking your company name and logo can help you to do this. For more guidance about protecting your copyright and registering your intellectual property, get in touch with our professional solicitors.

Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone.