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The importance of trade mark protection

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Trade mark protection is a hot topic for emerging and growing businesses. A trade mark’s greatest power is the ability to stop other businesses from using certain words, phrases or images within identical or similar sectors/industries.

Here Edward Hamilton, a solicitor in the Corporate team at Lancashire law firm Napthens, which is a Boost & Co member, discusses the vital importance of trade marks to both emerging and continually innovating businesses. He outlines how businesses should protect themselves and the consequences when they don’t.

Trade marks – quick facts

  • A trade mark is a word, logo or slogan which serves as a ‘badge of origin’ to distinguish the goods or services of one business from another;
  • It grants holders an exclusive right to use words or images for 10 years;
  • It serves as a vital tool for protecting a business, its brand and harbouring brand value;
  • Trade mark registration is invariably a quick process, with UK trade marks taking approximately two–three months from start to finish;
  • Once registered, a business can use a ® after the word or image;
  • Trade marks serve as an effective marketing tool, providing a strong identity and further collateral to products and services: setting a business apart from the competition, creating a distinct point of difference.

What are the benefits?

As a holder of a registered trade mark, businesses will have the power to unequivocally stop anyone they come across in their sector using identical or similar branding. As such they can build a brand safe in the knowledge that they are doing so on solid, legal foundations.

As a further benefit, holders will be automatically notified of any trade mark applications which are identical or similar to their trade mark, giving holders the option to oppose/block such applications. 

What are the risks?

Many businesses now recognise the importance of investment in the registration of trade mark protection given the risk of building a brand which either (a) can’t be protected or (b) which might conflict with someone else’s, without the right advice. It is therefore crucial that businesses are pro-active. This saves money and unnecessary bureaucracy in the event a dispute arises.

The greatest risk for businesses, without trademark protection, is that they may find themselves in a position where someone else registers a brand as a trade mark. As a result, businesses can be left with limited (if any) options and may face a costly legal battle and/or a costly rebrand: both of which have the potential to financially damage businesses. 

What should be registered? The question that needs to be asked to determine whether or not something should be protected is: could the business withstand the bruising it suffers with the loss of that brand (whether word or image) if someone came along with a registered trade mark and prevented the business from using it? This question typically needs asking of a business name, a logo and any strap or tag lines.

Quite simply, if a business has spent time and money building a brand, why run the risk of not being able to use and exploit it fully due to lack of protection – particularly for the low level of costs involved. 

Edward Hamilton, is a solicitor in the Corporate team at Lancashire law firm Napthens

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