Registering a trade mark: the importance of protecting your brand

Having the right type of intellectual property protection is vital to stop people stealing or copying the creative ideas you have worked hard to develop. Darren Davies, Partner at Hutchinson Thomas, explains what can and can’t be trade marked and how important it could be to protect your businesses brand.

Intellectual property is the legal term for something that you create using your mind – this could be an invention, an artistic work – written, musical or visual – or a symbol which is totally your own invention. These could include the names and aesthetics of your products or brands, your inventions, the things you write, design, make or produce.

Copyright, patents and trade marks are all types of intellectual property protection. There is some protection given to the original creator automatically, others you will need to apply for.

Trade marks are one such area of intellectual property which need to be applied for, and understanding what is required by law can be quite daunting for the uninitiated. For instance, you will need to ensure that your trade mark is unique before you even apply.

Once a trade mark is registered you can then take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without permission, including counterfeiters and rival businesses. It also allows you to put the ⟨®⟩ symbol next to your trade mark, warning against potential infringement of it. You are then free to sell and license your brand.

A trade mark can include:

  • Words
  • Sounds
  • Colours
  • Symbols or logos
  • and any combination of these elements.

Under UK law, your trade mark cannot:

  • Be offensive to public decency, for example, it cannot contain swear words or pornographic images
  • Include symbols or designs which look too similar to symbols like flags or hallmarks.
  • Be misleading, for example, using word like ‘organic’ to describe something which is not.
  • Be used to directly describe the goods or services it will relate to, for example the word ‘computer’ cannot be a trade mark for a computer repair company. The word can indeed be used in the company name or slogan, it just can’t be trade marked.

The above list is not exhaustive, and there are many more things which need to be considered before you will have a chance that your trade mark application will be accepted.

If you have several similar versions of the item you wish to trade mark, you can make a series application for up to six marks. In this kind of application, all your marks should look the same, sound the same, mean the same thing, and any differences between them must be small.

When applying for your trade mark you will also need details of what you want to register as well as an understanding of which trade mark classes you want to register in. There are many of these and it can be quite confusing, for example, food and drink services (class 43) or chemicals (class 1). You may need to register in a number of ‘classes’, but without experience in this area choosing the right categories could prove challenging.

It’s best to ask a legal professional to guide you in this process, as you cannot alter your trade mark once you’ve applied, and the fees are non-refundable.

For a free initial discussion about registering your trademark, contact Darren Davies, Partner at Hutchinson Thomas on or call 01639 640 150.