How to Apply for a Registered Trademark

Some of the biggest success stories in modern business started with a simple idea and a note pad. Online giants such as Google, Facebook, PayPal and Amazon have transformed the way we shop, socialise, do business and live our personal lives, but one day not too long ago they were all just ideas and concepts in someone’s mind – a bit like your big ideas in fact. I can’t help you come up with the next big idea, but if you have one already then congratulations. Maybe you are at the preliminary design stages, maybe you have already developed your product and have started taking sales?

At whatever stage of the process you are, you should be giving serious thought to registering your new big idea as a trademark. This will help secure your intellectual property rights to your business and ensure that no one attempts to take a free ride on the fruits of your hard work. The rest of this blog will briefly explain what a trademark is and the process of applying for a registered trademark.

What is a Registered Trademark?

We’ve all seen the little ‘®’ symbol after some branded products. This is to denote that the named product and idea carries a registered trademark. It is a sign that safeguards the name, brand and actual workings of that invention as the intellectual property of the trademark owner. People can only use trademarked items within the guidelines set out by the trademark holder, and with their express permission. Any use contrary to the holder’s wishes will be pursuable through the courts – and intellectual property is one thing the courts take very seriously indeed.

What classes as a trademark?

It is important to remember that trademarks are not detailed descriptions of products and services. Nor do they refer to ‘copyrighted’ material; a copyright covers a range of creative media products such as written content, photography, music, artwork etc. This is not what a trademark does. A trademark establishes a brand as a promise to deliver a user experience. In other words, a registered trademark is a mark of trust that the holder can deliver the ideas and services associated with their brand. Having a trademark prevents the illegal manipulation or expropriation of your idea or invention as symbolised by your brand.

Applying for your Trademark

So, you have your big idea and you are aware of what a trademark is and what it isn’t. This is the process you need to follow in order to apply for your registered trademark. It is a lot less intimidating process than it may at first appear, and can be done online through the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

  1. Come up with a name

If you haven’t done so already, you should think of a short, snappy brand name for your idea. This will become your trademark. It should include your brand/idea name and maybe a short slogan – nothing too long or awkward. McDonalds; I’m loving it, WHSmith, Google, Cussons: Imperial Leather are all great examples of trademarks. Long technical slogans or descriptions make awful trademarks.

  1. Search existing trademarks

The whole point of a trademark is that it is a unique symbol that sets your big idea apart from your competitors. You therefore need to search to make sure the name you had in mind isn’t already taken, and that your proposed trademark isn’t too similar to someone else’s’.

  1. Choose your Goods and Services Category

On the IPO website there are 45 listed categories of products and services your trademark could fit into. It boils down to the type of industry your idea is designed to serve and who your target market are. The categories are called ‘classes’ and range all the way from industrial chemicals (Class 1) all the way through to detective agency services (Class 45) Have a good read through as it is important to get this step right if you want your application to be taken seriously.

  1. Apply for an examination

The application, or examination form can be filled in on line and shouldn’t take any longer than ten to fifteen minutes if you’ve done your research. Be aware though that you will need to pay a £170 fee up front for standard examinations, and this is non-refundable if your application is rejected.

  1. Receive your examination report

Once you’ve clicked your submit button you then have up to 20 working days of nail biting while you wait to hear back from the IPO. Your examination report will determine whether or not your trademark application is acceptable. You may have to respond to queries or objections raised by the examiner before the application is accepted. Questions are resolved directly through written correspondence and could add another two months to your application time.

  1. Publication

If your application is accepted in principle, you still aren’t all the way there. Your new trademark is now published in the Trade Marks Journal, to give third parties the opportunity to object to your application. This phase is a formality and you shouldn’t usually expect opposition. However, the opposition might occur if your trademark is deemed too similar to one of your competitors, or a current trademark holder feels you are treading on their toes. Any opponents will have to formally file their opposition and you will have a chance to respond.

  1. Registration

Assuming your competitors are quiet and no one files an objection within three months of having your trademark published, you will then be sent your certificate of registration.

So there you have it, a registered trademark for your business idea and brand. Don’t be put off by the apparent complexity of the procedure. Trademarks are a powerful commercial asset and so it is right that the application process is rigorous. The process requires thorough research and a well thought-out application but acquiring a trademark is well within the means of most people. If you have a great business idea you deserve the recognition and security that comes with having a registered trademark. Be determined, go for it and you will be one step closer to making your big idea into a commercial reality.