Running a business is never easy. You spend a great deal of time, effort, and money building your business and its reputation. Protecting all your hard work is vital to your business’s survival, growth, and success.
And one of the most effective ways to protect your business name and brand is to apply for a trademark.
Understanding trademark and its purpose
A trademark is a form of intellectual property that identifies and distinguishes a business’s service or product from other similar products and services. It separates a product or service exclusively belonging to your company and recognizes your ownership of that brand.
In the United Kingdom (UK), a trademark can be in the form of:
- Designs such as symbols, signs, or logos
- Words, slogans, or phrases
- Packaging form or shape of goods
- Movement or gestures
- Colour, sounds or jingles
- Brand, company, and domain names
- A combination of any of the above
A trademark is critical to your business’s longevity. If you leave your business name unregistered, you run the risk of having your competitors steal your customers and take advantage of your brand reputation. Therefore, trademarks provide the necessary legal protection. Registered trademarks can also be sold, traded, or used on mortgages and loans.
4 steps to registering a trademark in the UK
Knowing how to apply for a trademark in the UK is critical in securing your business. Typically, business owners turn to a lawyer or contact a solicitor like Bonamark to help them apply for a trademark. This can take away the hassle and confusion of registering a trademark on your own.
But if you’d like to try doing it yourself, here are the steps you should follow.
1. Do a trademark search
First off, you want to make sure nobody has registered the same trademark as yours. You can check for expired and existing trademarks via the database of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which is free to use.
Here, you can also search for phrases and symbols, and it will show a list of any similar trademarks and classes they’re registered in.
Although free, doing an independent search can produce limited results. It’s recommended to engage the services of an experienced trademark attorney in conducting a more detailed search of registered trademarks.
There’s a probability you’ll find a business that’s already registered a trademark the same as yours. However, there’s also a chance they’re in a different class. We’ll discuss more on it later.
Generally, if a brand registers a trademark in, for instance, area 32, you can register the same brand in area 42, as long as your business is relevant in that specific field.
However, if that name is already taken in your relevant class, you won’t be able to use it. So, it’s best if you come up with another brand or business name.
2. Determine your trademark class
Applying for a trademark involves choosing the class of services and goods relevant to your business.
In the UK, there are 45 different trademark classes. Thirty-four of these classes cover products and goods, and the remaining 11 classes cover services.
Each class encompasses different products, services, and industries. Product classes can range from chemical items (Class 1) used in science and agriculture and other industries such as cosmetic and adhesive ingredients to musical instruments (Class 15) like guitars and pianos.
Meanwhile, the service classes can range from education (Class 41) like animal training to hotel services (Class 43). Each class includes detailed information on what’s included and excluded.
You may check out the complete list of classes at the World Intellectual Property Organisation. You can also learn more about the trademark classes here.
3. Start your trademark application
To apply to register your trademark, go to the UK IPO site. You may click the green ‘Apply Now’ button to start the application. After that, you’ll be guided to several pages where you need to type in the requested information.
- Indicate the registrant
You’ll be asked if you’re the trademark owner or applying on behalf of a business.
- Provide necessary details
The next page will require you to fill in the necessary details. If you’ve filed for a trademark before, you can retrieve your previous data by inputting your email address.
- Enter the trademark
Next, you’ll be asked what type of trademark you’re applying for. The first page will ask if there are any words, numbers, or letters in the basic format of your trademark. After that, the next page will ask you to enter a more advanced format of your trademark and upload an image.
- Single vs. series trademark
The next page will ask you if you’re applying for a single trademark or a series. The former means that it’s for just one word, phrase, or design. In general, it provides you with enough protection if another business tries to copy it, even with a slight change.
To go a step further, you can trademark a series of variations. Take note, however, that it’ll cost you more per added variation.
- Choose a class and term
By now, you should have a good idea of which class you belong to. Choose the class relevant to your business. You can also choose multiple classes if necessary. For instance, if you’re selling software for the hotel industry, you can get classes in hotel services and software or technology.
You can also choose a class then write a descriptive term. However, it’s not recommended to do this unless you have extensive knowledge of intellectual property, trademarks, and the legalities involved.
You’ll be asked if you want to add a disclaimer. Basically, a disclaimer indicates that the registrant doesn’t claim exclusive rights to a portion or element of the mark.
- Normal vs. priority claim filing
The next page will ask you how you want your claim filing to be handled. However, the page will indicate that you can only claim priority if you applied outside the UK in the last six months.
- Type of trademark
Next, you’ll be asked to choose the type of trademark. However, most people will simply select ‘Trademark,’ which is the default option.
A certification mark guarantees the services or goods bearing your mark meet the standard of unique or quality characteristics set out. Meanwhile, a collective mark is suitable for trade associations.
- Trademark examination type
You can choose from two examination types:
- Standard: The standard type takes around 20 days for examination. It costs £170 and is payable upfront and non-refundable.
- Right start: This type also takes around 20 days for examination but costs a total of £200. You only need to pay £100 upfront and the remaining £100 if you wish to proceed with the filing once your application is accepted. If your application is rejected for whatever reason, you only pay the £100 upfront cost.
- Review and submission
The next page will show you the details you’ve entered for your trademark application. Make sure to review everything thoroughly and correct as needed.
After checking, you can submit your application. Once submitted, you can’t change the information.
After submitting your application, you can proceed to the payment page. After paying, you will see a confirmation page. Screenshot your application number. You’ll also receive an email. You can sit back and wait for the trademark to be processed.
4. Dealing with objections
In case someone objects to your trademark registration, the IPO UK will resolve the issue.
Take note that your trademark application won’t conclude until all objections are resolved. You can defend your application, withdraw your application, or directly resolve the issue with the individual raising the objection.
Once any objectives are resolved or if there are no objections, your trademark will be registered within two weeks of the end of the publication period.
After trademark registration
A registered trademark is valid for 10 years in the UK and needs renewal after this period. Also, the trademark needs to stay the same throughout that period. Changing any aspect such as design, colour, or even typeface means you’ll have to apply for a new trademark. Consequently, if you’re expanding your brand into a different class, you’ll need to apply for that trademark in the appropriate class.
Take note that you need to use your trademark commercially. Not enforcing a trademark within a 5-year-period can leave it open to removal from the register or challenge by other businesses.
Timeline for registering a trademark in the UK
The time it takes to register a trademark in the UK successfully will depend on several factors.
If nobody opposes your registration and the examiner doesn’t bring up any objections, then your trademark application will take about four months from your application date.
Cost of trademarking in the UK
The standard cost of applying for a trademark online is £170. If you register by post, it will cost you £200. Take note that this price is for applying for a trademark in the UK in a single class of services and goods only.
For every extra class, it’ll cost you another £50. This means for every class you add, the higher the cost of filing is. You need to file a fee sheet with your payment and application.
You can also use the Right Start service to check that your trademark application meets the rules. Initially, you pay £100 and £50 for every extra class. You’ll then get a report telling you if your trademark application meets the registration rules. If you wish to continue, you need to pay the full fee within 28 days of getting the report.
Although it involves a complex process, a trademark is valuable in protecting your brand and growing your business. In terms of intellectual property protection, there’s not a lot that can beat having a trademark for your business.
So, refer to the steps mentioned above for appropriate guidance on how to apply for a trademark in the UK.