Trade Mark Attorneys – Trademarks are a type of intellectual property. They play a vital part in the development, recognition and protection of a brand and, in turn, the success of the business which owns them. For all businesses, a trademark is a valuable asset.
For some, it is the most valuable, dwarfing the value of all other assets combined.
Trademarks attorneys specialise in navigating complex trademark regimes in the UK and worldwide.
A trademark attorney is a crucial addition to your business advisory team and will work alongside you to enhance and safeguard your brand identity, thereby maximising your business’ commercial value.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a ‘badge of origin’; it instantly informs consumers where a product or service originates from. Trademarks become synonymous with a brand and set it apart from competitors. In a world where consumer choice is endless, trademarks enable a buyer to identify your products and services by reference to your brand name, logo or slogan.
Whilst intangible, trademarks can be commercialised in the same way as tangible property – they can be sold, assigned, licensed and even used as security for a loan.
A trademark gives its owner a monopoly over the goods or services for which it is registered for as long as registration subsists.
What can a trademark protect?
Trademarks can protect a range of business assets, including –
Your business name and the name of particular products can be trademarked. Apple, Trunki and Vaseline are examples of well-known word marks. Slogans are also capable of protection – ‘Just Do It’, ‘I’m Lovin It’ and ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ are all registered trademarks.
Graphics which represent your brand – such as a drawing or silhouette – may benefit from trademark protection. Mo Farah, for example, has registered his signature victory pose – the ‘Mobot’ – as a trademark. Whenever consumers see that mark alongside products or services, they immediately know that they are endorsed by Mo Farah.
Many businesses are instantly recognisable from their trademark logos, even without an accompanying brand name. Well-known examples include the Nike Swoosh, Apple’s ‘apple’ and Chanel’s interlocking double C.
Pattern trademarks are popular with fashion brands, which use them to protect their signature textile designs. The Burberry check and various tartans all benefit from trademark protection.
Sounds enable a business to interact with a consumer on a level over and above the visual and can significantly enhance brand recognition. Many businesses have attempted to register sound marks, with varying success. Amongst those who have succeeded is Direct Line, which has a trademark for its distinctive jingle.
There are strict legal rules governing what can be trademarked. The overarching principle is that a trademark must distinguish your goods or services from those of other businesses. Needless to say, a proposed mark cannot be too similar to a mark already registered. A mark cannot be merely descriptive – simply put, you could not register the mark ‘Fireplace’ for a company which manufactures fireplaces. Similarly, a shape associated with your line of work cannot be trademarked – so, if Apple sold fruit, its mark would likely have been refused registration. A trademark attorney will ensure that any proposed mark does not fall foul of these and the various other registration rules.
How do you protect a trademark?
Trademarks are territorial rights – one registered in the UK only provides protection here. It is therefore common for businesses to develop a portfolio of trademarks registered in countries where they currently operate alongside those into which they hope to expand.
The UK operates a ‘first to file’ system, as opposed to the ‘first to use’ regime adopted by other countries like the United States. Under the ‘first to file’ approach, the entity which registers the mark first has the right to use it. This right is to the exclusion of everyone else including those who may have already been using it on a non-registered basis. It is therefore vital that trademarks are registered at the earliest opportunity.
To obtain registration, an application must be made to the UK Intellectual Property Office. The application includes a specification detailing the mark and the relevant goods and services. Upon receipt, the IPO will check that the mark is not too similar to any existing registration before publishing the application in the trademarks journal to allow any opposition to be raised. Once a mark is approved, it will proceed to registration in around 3 months.
Following registration, you will be at liberty to include the ® symbol alongside your trademark. This informs third parties that the mark is protected, deters competitors from using it without your permission and gives gravitas to your brand. Trademark protection lasts for 10 years but can be renewed indefinitely.
What do trademark attorneys do?
Trademark attorneys have in-depth knowledge of trademark practice and procedure. They will identify any existing assets capable of registration and secure the relevant protection in the appropriate countries. Trade mark attorneys will assist in the development of brand strategy, obtain registrations where required and subsequently manage your trademark portfolio, keeping abreast of any applications which may impinge upon your marks. They will pursue any unauthorised use of your trademarks and defend any claim of infringement brought against you.
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