Protecting Your Brand


A trade mark is the legal definition of a brand and it is a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. They can consist of words, logos or a combination of both. Most businesses, new and established,  are aware that their trademarks, whether in the form of a logo, a company name, or an internet domain name, are central to the identity of their business, however, many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of protecting them.


Requirements for a registered trade mark

Trade marks must be distinctive for the goods and services that you provide, i.e. they must be recognisable as different from other brands.

A trade mark may not be registered if:

  • It is a descriptive word or item
  • It indicates geographical origin, quality, purpose, or quantity
  • It is not considered distinctive
  • It has become customary in you line of trade
  • It is a 3D shape
  • It is a specially protected emblem
  • It is offensive
  • It is deceptive
  • It is against the law

Registering a business name at Companies House or registering an internet domain name will not provide you with trade mark protection as they are protected by different laws.  To benefit from trademark protection, it must be registered as a trade mark.


Benefits of registered trade marks

  • Helps protect your business identity
  • Provides proof of your legal rights
  • Protection extends across the UK
  • You can exploit (make money) from it if it is a product or service:
    • Can license it to others
    • May franchise it
    • May sell it



Registered trademarks must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force.


How do I show that my trade mark is protected? 

You can use TM to show that something is being used as a trade mark, even if you have just applied for protection and it is not registered yet.

You can use the ® symbol to show that something is a registered trade mark. As an IP owner, you should always try to show that your IP is protected. Do not use ® on a mark that is not registered because it is a criminal offence in the UK.


Trade mark infringement

If you use an identical or similar trade mark for identical or similar goods and services to a registered trade mark – you may be infringing the registered mark if your use creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public.

If you think you have infringed someone’s trade mark, seek legal advice to find out the options available to you. It may be that simply ceasing trading under that mark will be sufficient for the trade mark owner.


How do I enforce my trade mark?

If someone uses a mark, which is identical or similar to your registered trademark, without permission, they may be infringing your rights and you may have a cause for action.

Even if you don’t register your trade mark, you may still be able to take action if someone uses your mark without your permission by bringing a legal action in passing off.

To succeed in a passing off action, you must prove that:

  1. The mark is yours
  2. You have built up a reputation in the mark and
  3. You have been harmed in some way by the other person’s use of the mark.

It can be very expensive and difficult to prove a passing off action. If you register your trade mark, it is easier to take legal action against those who infringe your trade mark, rather than rely on passing off.

You are responsible for enforcing your trademark. You may be able to resolve your dispute without taking any legal action, however, you should seek advice from a legal professional before entering into any disputes.


How do I apply? 

Trademarks can only be registered by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). They have a straightforward application form available on their website and only four sections have to be completed- the other sections are optional.  Tip: discounts are available for online applications.



  1. Can I stop someone using a trade mark which is the same or similar to mine by registering my name with Companies House? No- Company law is different from trade mark law and so that person is within their right to use their trade mark if it is registered. Simply registering your name with Companies House does not afford you any trade mark protection. If you want to trade under that name and want trade mark protection, you will have to register your trademark before someone else does.