Many business owners are unaware of the importance of registering their Trade Marks, even though this may become one of their most valuable assets.
This can be because many wrongly assume that once they have registered their name at Companies House, or have secured a domain, they have unrestricted rights to the name in conjunction with all aspects of their business.
Therefore, it is crucial for any business to understand the key differences between a registered company name and a registered Trade Mark.
(This article was first published in 2013, and was updated again April 2021)
A company name identifies a legal entity.
By incorporating a company at Companies House, the owner of the company will only be preventing other businesses from registering an identical or very closely similar company name.
Crucially, incorporation of a company does not prevent other people from selling goods or providing services under an identical or a similar name.
Generally speaking, when it comes a Company Name, small differences may be sufficient to delineate between different parties, and minimise potential for conflict/issue. In the large majority of cases, a Company Name would have to be essentially identical to an existing registered Company Name, in order to be actionable.
A registered Trade Mark is entirely different from a company name.
A Trade Mark is a distinguishable Mark, which identifies goods or services of a particular source, from those of others. A Trade Mark can take different forms, for example, a business name, a product name, a logo or the name of a service.
A Trade Mark registration grants you (the proprietor or owner) exclusive rights to use the Trade Mark in relation to the goods and/or services in respect of which it is registered, for an indefinite period of time (provided renewal dates are met and the Trade Mark put to genuine use).
A registered Trade mark can deter other parties from misrepresenting or copying a brand identity, and gives enforceable to stop others from using an identical or confusingly similar Mark in relation to the registered goods or services, unless they have been given express permission.
A Trade Mark registration can be a hugely valuable asset to a business, helping to protect investment and reputation.
- REMEMBER: Before a new company is formed or trading commenced, it is important that searches are made on the company, domain, and Trade Mark registers.
If a company registers a company name or a domain name which is identical or similar to a registered Trade mark and provides similar goods or services, the owner of the registered Trade mark may be entitled to bring an action for Trade mark infringement, even if the company has incorporated its name, or secured the domain, before the filing date of the registered Trade mark.
In many instances, companies opt to delay seeking Trade mark protection until they have been trading for a few years. This is a critical error.
Delaying the protection of your brand name can mean that, despite having spent significant time and money on branding and marketing, another company may have pre-empted you in securing a registration for an identical or closely similar Trade Mark. It is a first-come-first-served system. The competitor can thus block you, and in some instances you may have to change your brand name/company name.
Furthermore, the fact that registration will not be available to you, will diminish the value of the brand as an asset to your business, and make it more challenging and costly to defend/enforce your rights. In some cases, as mentioned above, it may also involve rebranding.
It is therefore of the upmost importance that a Trade Mark is registered as soon as possible within the lifetime of your brand/company. Do not delay.
If you are starting out, or expanding, think of ‘DoCiT’ as a helpful acronym: Domain, Company, Trade Mark; they each require separate protection.
The protection of any Trade Mark can be complex and multi-faceted. If you would like further information or advice, please contact the highly experienced Trade Marks team at Albright IP via email, by telephone: +44 (0) 1242 691 801, or using the form below and we will be happy to advise and guide you.