By Mark Kingsley-Williams, Director, Trade Mark Direct

Your business’ name or logo is a vital part of your corporate identity — it appears on everything from your office door, to all your stationary and marketing materials – despite this, alarmingly few businesses are taking the fundamental step of registering theirs with the Intellectual Property Office. Our recent survey showed that 85 percent of small businesses have not registered their trademark, putting their brand at risk.

Here we outline some top tips to help any trademark application go as smoothly as possible.

1. Registering your company or product name with Companies House or owning the website address does not give you any trademark rights. The only way to be certain of trademark protection is to get the name registered at the Intellectual Property Office.

2. Do your homework. Check that the name you want can be registered as a trade mark at www.trademarkdirect.co.uk, that it’s available for use at Companies House, and whether the internet domain name has already been taken.

3. Avoid being too literal or descriptive with your company or product name. Names such as Designer Leather Bags won’t be accepted, nor will misspelt words such as Letha Bagz.

4. You can’t register a trademark that includes a famous name or brand, for example Mike’s Armani Shop.

5. Adding .com or .co.uk or ltd to a name that is otherwise identical to a registered trademark makes no difference, you can’t use or register it.

6. Choosing made up names is one of the easiest ways to a successful trademark application. It’s one of the reasons brand names such as Viagra, Accenture and Yakult come about.

7. If another company has already registered the name you want, you may still be able to register it if your products or services are different. For advice call Trade Mark Direct on 0845 680 9762.

8. Research your classes. Two companies can own the same trademark as long as they are registered for different products. To make sense of what products are similar the trademark registries operate a system of classes. You may need to register your trademark under more than one of these, for example if you provide catering services (class 43) as well as cleaning services (class 37). Get advice fromTrade Mark Direct on your registration.

9. Be thorough. A registered trademark lasts for ten years before renewal fees are due, and once it’s registered you cannot increase the scope. So if you currently only sell clothing but are harbouring a desire to expand to make-up, then it’s worth applying for that class, otherwise you have to start and fund a second application from scratch.

10. Don’t delay your application. Too many businesses put it off until too late when someone else has already registered the company or product name they have been using. They then have to rebrand and start trading under a new name, which can be a very costly process.

11. When applying for a trademark, it’s also a good idea to think about the long-term plans for your business, for example, do you plan to expand oversees? If so a Community Trademark covers all 25 EU countries, including of course the UK, although it’s about triple the UK price.

12. The DIY approach to registering your trademark may seem like the most cost-effective route, but any mistakes made in the complex and time consuming process will result in your application being rejected. Almost half of direct applications to the Intellectual Property Office fail (figures from 1998-2005) and its fees are non-refundable. Trade Mark Direct not only has a success rate of 94 percent but its low, fixed fees are only payable for successful applications.

Applying for a trademark is undoubtedly a complex process, but concerns over errors or worries about cost shouldn’t deter you. Our expert advice and easy online application (go to Easy Trade Mark Regitration) has seen us achieve a success rate of 94 percent of applications filed, and our low, fixed fees are only payable for names and brands that are successfully registered. As some unfortunate businesses can attest, the cost of registering a trademark is negligible in contrast with the price of entirely rebranding your business.

For more information on how to apply for a trademark go to www.trademarkdirect.co.uk

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