What is Trademarking and Why You Might Need It

what is trademarking intellectual property registered trademark

Last year, there were more than 95,000 trademarks registered in the UK. That represents an increase of almost 17 percent over previous years. 

Trademarks have been growing in popularity over the last decade as more business owners realized the importance of them for business. 

What is trademarking, though, and what can it do for your organisation? This quick guide will take you through the trademarking answers you need to protect your intellectual property. 

What Is a Trademark? 

A trademark is a registered piece of intellectual property for a brand. Typically, it’s something associated with your brand that you don’t want your competitors to copy or use. 

This might include a wordmark or a logo. Nike’s infamous swoosh is an example. If the company didn’t register that mark, then anyone could slap it on their products. 

Since it is registered, that means Nike retains the legal right to use the mark. Anyone else who copies it is subject to legal action from the company. 

What Can You Trademark in the UK? 

The law lays out what you can and cannot register as a trademark in the United Kingdom. Generally speaking, the list of what you can’t register is shorter than what you can. 

A trademark can include any or all of the following: 

• Words 
• Sounds 
• Colours 
• Logos 

Examples of things that can’t be trademarked include: 

• Generic phrases, such as “We’re the Best” 

• A term that directly describes the goods or services on offer, such as “Restaurant” in the name of a restaurant 

• Offensive content, such as obscenities or vulgar imagery 

• Misleading terms 

• 3D shapes that are directly associated with your trademark, such as an egg for an egg brand 

• Any images or symbols that look similar to state symbols like flags or hallmarks 

This can lead to some murky waters. When is a phrase “too generic”? Is a depiction of a chick hatching out of an egg ineligible due to its shape? 

If you’re uncertain, it’s best to consult with a UK trademark registration service. 

Why Is Trademarking Important? 

Trademarking has a few benefits for businesses operating in the UK. The goal of any trademark is to protect the brand and its intellectual property. 

Once your mark is registered, no one else can use it in the UK. That means no one else can use Nike’s swoosh logo without their permission. 

This protects brand integrity. It also makes the market less confusing for customers to navigate. If everyone could use Nike’s swoosh logo, there’s no doubt some shoe manufacturers would add it to their packaging or products. 

In turn, customers wouldn’t be able to tell if they were getting a Nike product or something else. If they got a poor quality shoe, they might be mad at Nike, even though they bought a “knock-off.” 

In this situation, the customer feels betrayed and upset. By contrast, when only one company can use a trademark, customers know they can trust that they are working with the brand when they see that logo or mark. 

This leads to higher customer satisfaction and trust. It can even make it easier for customers to find you on social media. 

Building Value 

A trademark also builds value in the business. First, it increases customer trust. That can lead to happy customers who return time and again. 

In turn, you make more sales and the business grows. 

Trademarks, like other intellectual property, also add value by virtue of existing. These are intangible types of property that must be added to the business’s estimated value. 

This can be helpful if you’re planning to sell your business soon. It can also be useful if you want to franchise the business. 

Why would it be helpful in the case of franchising? Essentially, franchisees will pay more for access to your logos and other trademarks. 

If you haven’t registered the marks, then there’s nothing stopping them from opening their own competing business and using your logo or slogan. As discussed, this confuses your customers and jeopardises your brand integrity. 

By protecting these assets, you’re creating a legal barrier to use. If a franchisee wishes to access the goodwill and trust of your customers, they’ll pay more so they can use the protected logo. Since the logo communicates with your customers, they’d like to have access to it. 

Avoiding Forced Change 

Finally, if you don’t take the steps to register your trademarks, there’s a chance someone else will do it. Every trademark in the UK must be unique. Once a mark is registered, you won’t be able to use it. 

That can cause significant difficulty for a business that’s been operating under a certain name or using a logo for years. The other business may prevent you from using your own marks, forcing you to undergo costly name changes or logo redesigns. 

This also jeopardises the goodwill you’ve built up with your customers over the years. They may not recognize your new name, or they may be confused and work with the other business. 

Registering your marks can prevent this from happening. 

How to Register a Trademark in the UK 

Your first step will be to conduct a trademark search. You can get in touch with a UK trademarking service for this. They can tell you if the mark has ever been registered before. 

Remember that marks must be unique. If your marks have been registered before, you’ll need to ask for permission from the registrant. Otherwise, you might be on the hunt for a new name or logo. 

Once you’ve determined your mark hasn’t been registered before, it’s time to put together your application. The UK trademarking service can help here too. They’ve prepared applications for many clients, so they can help you get your application right the first time. 

Protect Your Successful Business 

With all this in mind, it’s not difficult to see why trademarking has become so popular in the UK. By registering your trademark, you can protect your business IP today. 

Looking for more advice about protecting or growing your business intellectual property? You’ve come to the right place for trademarking tips. Take a look at the archives and discover the top legal tips to help you make your business a success in the Law section of the Bootstrap Business Blog.

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