So, you’ve got a product or service that you think is going to be so mind-blowingly awesome that other people might try to piggyback on your success. You want to make sure that nobody else can mislead people by pretending to be your company or associated with your company. To accomplish that, you need a trademark, which grants you the legal right to a certain type of intellectual property – in this case, a word(s), a sound, a logo (the Nike “swoosh,” for example), or a picture. Once you own the trademark, you can use the “®” symbol to let everyone know that whatever the intellectual property is, it belongs to you and only you.
There are four big decisions to make when you’re trying to choose the right type of trademark for your business:
- What category it fits in
- The word/phrase, etc., you’re going to trademark
- Whose name to register under
- The extent of protection you need
1. Identify Your Mark's Category
In the UK, there are currently 45 classes in which a product or service can be registered. It’s important that you choose the right one – or ones. That’s because different companies may be able to register the same trademark as long as they’re in different categories. If you’re not sure which category is right for you, check out this tutorial.
2. Choose a Word, Phrase, etc., You’re Going to Trademark
Think of the trademarks that are recognized globally. It would be tough to find someone who didn’t recognize the little bird for Twitter or the apple with a bite out of it for Apple. You want a trademark that immediately evokes the image of your company in the mind of everyone who sees it. But you also want it to be unique. Once people start using your trademark in a more generic way, your trademark is useless – which is why all tissues are now Kleenexes and “google” is a verb. The folks at Google probably aren’t too happy hearing that people are “googling” something on Bing!
3. Decide Whose Name to Register Under
This decision requires a bit of a crystal ball, but it’s an important factor to consider. If you register a trademark under your name, it belongs to you, no matter what you do in the future. If you register a trademark under the company’s name, ownership stays with the company. So, if you sell the company down the road, you have no further rights to the trademark. However, you may choose to register under the company name anyway, with the plan that owning the trademark will increase the company’s value if you do decide to sell.
4. Analyse the Level of Protection You Need
If you register a trademark in the UK, your intellectual property is protected only in the UK. If you’re going to be doing business in other countries, you may have to register your trademark in those countries. Alternatively, a “community trademark” costs more to get but protects your intellectual property in all nations that are members of the EU.
Registering a trademark isn’t something to be taken lightly. The decisions you make now can have a huge impact on your business’s future. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of trademark registration so you’ll be able to decide the best route for you and your business.
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