How do I trademark a company logo?

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Registered Trade Mark indiciaProtecting your corporate identity is becoming more necessary than ever. In an increasingly competitive and, arguably, immoral capitalist system, companies are becoming only too willing to try and steal some of your business by cloning your “look and feel”. Even worse – and this happened to yours truly – a new company that looks like it has a good name might have the rug pulled from under it’s feet by the big boys registering your name as a trademark before you get the chance to establish yourselves!

The difference between TM and ®

We’ve all seen the little TM and ® marks adorning logos for years, but what do they mean?

TM, meaning Trade Mark is simply the owners assertion that their product, service or company are unique. There is no real legal validity to this, other than that the brand may have been notoriously well known for many years. Whether or not the user shows the logo with the TM is largely immaterial – the claim to ownership of a brand name or logo will always be stronger, the longer you have used it unchallenged, whether it has been legally registered or not.

®, meaning Registered Trade Mark means that the items in question has been registered with the Patent office (or IPO Intellectual Property Office in the UK). It has legal clout right from the word go.

Spoken from experience

We recently developed a content managed website product and decided to call it Zipweb. Nobody else had registered the name in the UK at the time. However, after receiving legal letters from the American legal representatives of Zipweb.com, we found that they had applied for the trademark in the UK about a month after we started to use the name in the UK. Although our business classifications were arguably different, because they had applied for their trademark before us, we were on a sticky wicket. For this reason, and others (Google for Zipweb and see what you get), we decided to drop the name like a brick to avoid being associated, and re-brand our website system as SantWeb!

Things to check before starting out

The easiest way to make sure you won’t be treading on anyone’s toes is to do some checks. Again, a qualified Trademark lawyer can help with this, but you can carry out some initial checks yourself. For example, check Companies House to make sure there isn’t already a Limited Company with your name. Check the domain registries (although you’ll often find people squatting on a domain and doing nothing with it). Check for existing trademarks by using the IPO’s own search facility:

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-os/t-find.htm

Show me the forms!

In the UK, just get along to the Intellectual Property Office website. You can apply manually on a Form TM3, or you can do it all online. Just look in the trademarks section. You can currently obtain the paper TM3 form from this address:

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-applying/t-apply/t-paperform.htm

If you decide to apply online then it’s much the same, and at the end of the process you get to download your pre-completed TM3.

Is it complicated? Do I need a lawyer?

It all depends on the complexity of what you are trying to achieve. If, like me, you were just registering a simple 2 dimensional design, then it is quite straightforward. The main issue that people need help with is determining the class of Goods and/or Services you are going to register under. There is quite a long list, and the more classes you register your trademark under, the more expensive it gets! You can see a full list of classes here:

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-applying/t-class.htm

For example, a web hosting company would probably want to file under class 38 (at least the provision of e-mail services) and a good part of class 42. The secret here is to register on the safe side. If you think you are going to need something in future, then it’s better to register it now. It’s much easier to recind a class or part of a class later, than try to win it back once someone else is opposing you!

How much does a trademark cost?

It currently costs £200 to register a mark, which includes one class – extra classes cost £50 a go, so don’t get too ambitious unless you have plenty to spend. And once you have paid your money and submitted your TM3, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. If someone else sees your application in the Trademark Journal and decides to oppose it, then they can file a TM7a, Notice of Threatened Opposition. However, unless they have a very good reason, and you have done your background checks, then it is unlikely you will experience any difficulties. If someone does prevent your registration going through, then you need to think very carefully about pursuing your registration as to do so could result in costs being awarded against you.

What have I got to lose?

£200 is the short answer. But imagine how much time and money you will be saving by not having to worry in future about your logo being infringed, inpinged upon, or plain stolen by someone else!

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One Response to “How do I trademark a company logo?”

  1. Roshan Ahmed June 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    Hi,
    I never knew there are so much legal stuff behind these things. I thought it would be just like (c) symbol which shows the product is copyrighted. So I guess in order to use (R) I should register my company legally!

    It seems a bit costly. But, as you’ve said, if it can save me from legal issues, which would save my time (and money, may be) I wouldn’t regret to spend the £200.

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