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What is a trade mark?

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Protecting your intellectual property isn’t just about making sure no one copies your idea. If you’re running a business, it should be an integral part of your overall strategy, helping it to grow and develop. If you’re just starting out, investing in intellectual property will not only secure your business at the startup phase, but will also add value and help it on the path to success. This is particularly important in the current climate, where competition is rife and a significant amount of startups have sprung up taking advantage of the gap in the market.

So, what is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a sign which distinguishes the goods and service on one undertaking from all the others. A trade mark also provides the customer with a guarantee that the goods and/or services are from a single undertaking, i.e. that they belong to you. Most trade marks consist of words and/or logos but trade mark legislation allows for any sign to be registered.

Applications for trade marks can be made either electronically (you can apply for a trade mark online here) or on paper. In both cases an official form must be completed. You must ensure that you apply for the correct trade mark because once the form has been completed, it cannot be amended.

So that’s the "what is a trade mark" part covered, but how much does it cost to get one? The official fee is £200 which covers the application for one class of goods and/or services plus £50 for each additional class. Assistance is on hand for applicants who have any queries regarding the goods and services or any other aspect of the application form (check out what classification you fall under here).

Once the official form has been received, the examination of trade mark applications normally take three or four weeks to complete. If no objection is raised to your application, your trade mark will be accepted. However, if objections are raised, these will be explained and the examiner will, wherever possible, suggest ways of overcoming them. You may contact the examiner by post, telephone, fax or e-mail and discuss any objections raised.

All applications, when deemed acceptable, will then be advertised in the Trade Marks Journal. Once advertised they are open to opposition by a third party for a period of up to three months. If no opposition is raised then formal registration will follow within a few weeks and you will receive your trade mark registration certificate.

NB: It is important to note that of all applications filed, 95 per cent proceed to advertisement and of those, only five per cent are opposed. Additionally, many such oppositions are settled amicably by the parties involved.

It is worth noting that the fee (from £200) provides trade mark protection for a period of ten years. Renewal for a further ten years is granted automatically, on application, for the same fee. There is no limit to the number of renewals that may be made as there is no limit to the period of registration. In fact, the first ever trade mark is still valid! It has been renewed ever since registration was first granted.

Finally, remember, if you wish to acquire trade mark rights in several European countries you may prefer to file for a Community Trade Mark. This is more expensive but it provides registered rights throughout Europe.

What is a trade mark? I think that just about answers it.

Related articles Protecting your intellectual property rights Protecting your ideas The brain trade

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