Trade marksIt is generally advisable to register your business or brand name as a trade mark. This will help prevent others from using your mark or a similar mark for identical or similar goods and services for a renewable period of ten years. Once registered, using the ® symbol will notify third parties of your right and may discourage unauthorised use. When choosing a brand name, it is prudent to carry out searches to ensure this name will not infringe existing marks. The internet is an obvious place to start, however, trade mark agents can be instructed to conduct more comprehensive searches.
PatentsA patent can be obtained for inventions which are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application. This is an extremely valuable asset as it gives a 20 year monopoly in exchange for placing details of the invention on the public register. It is worth remembering that there are a number of exceptions to what can be patented (e.g. methods of doing business). If you are considering applying for a patent, it is important to keep the invention confidential until the application has been filed. Once filed, you will then have 12 months in which to disclose and demonstrate the invention to third parties before deciding whether to pursue the application process.
DesignsMany businesses do not realise that new designs for manufactured items, whilst not always patentable, can be protected as UK or Community registered designs. This is a relatively straightforward procedure and will allow you to prevent others from making articles to that design for up to 25 years. Even where registration is not possible, you may still benefit from unregistered design right protection. This will apply to original 3-dimensional shapes and configurations which are not ‘commonplace’ in the design field. If established, this will provide some protection against copying.
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