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As Britain emerges from recession and puts businesses in prime position for export-led growth, new research from Trade Mark Direct reveals that two thirds (66%) of growing businesses are failing to adequately protect their brands when preparing for international expansion.

A UK registered trade mark gives no protection in the rest of the EU, the US or beyond, so it is imperative that businesses with international aspirations register their trade marks internationally if they want to ensure their brands are protected in these markets.

According to online trade mark registration service Trade Mark Direct, where a trade mark can be registered for under £500 including all registry fees, the growth of internet based enterprises selling products and services to customers around the world should be pushing trade marks higher up business agendas.

Over a fifth (22%) of small businesses spend over £5,000 on developing and producing their branding, making registering a trade mark a comparatively small cost. Failing to register a trade mark runs the risk of a competitor (UK or overseas) using the same name and registering it as a trade mark. Or you could later discover that the name that you have built your business around doesn’t comply with trade mark law. Whoever owns the trade mark has the legal right to ask a competitor with the same or a similar name to cease trading with almost immediate effect, resulting in significant costs and huge upheaval.

Businesses’ lack of trade mark planning could also be attributed to the fact that less than a quarter (23%) of respondents reported that they were getting sufficient trade mark guidance from business bodies such as Business Link, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses — who also seem to be underestimating the importance of legal protection for brands.

Trade Mark Direct would also advise that businesses consider any plans to diversify into other trading areas, such as expanding from clothing into make-up, to ensure that they are getting the right protection for their future. A registered trade mark lasts for ten years before renewal fees are due, and once it’s registered you cannot add new categories of products or services without a full new application.

Mark Kingsley-Williams, Director of Trade Mark Direct, said: “Developing a brand can be a considerable outlay for small businesses so it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your investment from the on-set.

“The importance of registering a trade mark for your company or product is often overlooked by businesses, and as our research reveals, by the business bodies that support them too. Growing businesses with big aspirations should ensure that they get the right protection for their brand at present and for the future.”

For more information on applying for a trade mark go to www.trademarkdirect.co.uk

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