A professionally created and properly implemented brand is a very valuable asset to your business and like any business asset, it should be protected. This article discusses how trade marks can be used to protect your brand(s).
A trade mark is a very common way to protect the visual elements of your brand, including your logo, brand name and slogan, for example. Trade marks can even be used to protect distinctive colours, music (such as a jingle) and shapes that are associated with your brand.
There are two types of trade mark available in the UK (an many other countries) – registered and unregistered (for further information, read our article “What Types of Trade Mark are Available in the UK“). Information regarding how to use each of these types of trade mark to protect your brand is listed below.
Registered Trade Marks
A registered trade mark gives you the exclusive right to use your mark for the goods and/or services that it covers in the United Kingdom.
There are other important advantages to owning a registered trade mark:
– It can put people off using your trade mark without your permission.
– It allows you to take legal action against anyone who uses your trade mark without your permission.
– It allows Trading Standards Officers and the Police to bring criminal charges against anyone who use your trade mark illegally.
– It is the property of the company, which means that it has financial value in that it can be sold or licensed to others. For further information, read or FAQ regarding how to allow other to use your brand.
Unregistered Trade Marks
If you don’t register your trade mark, you can take action if someone uses your mark without your permission, using the common law action of passing off.
To be successful in a passing off action for an unregistered trade mark, you must prove that:
– The mark is yours;
– You have built up a reputation in the mark;
– You have been harmed in some way by the other person’s use of the mark.
It should be noted, however, that it can be very difficult and expensive to prove a passing off action.
We would recommend using registered a trademark as it is easier to take legal action against infringement of your mark, rather than having to rely on common law.