Every business has something that makes them unique. It may be your offering, your customer service or your user experience. Whatever it is that sets you above the rest, your business name and branding will come to represent it. Consumers will begin to associate your brand with the feeling they get when buying from you. This is why it is so important that you have full ownership over your intellectual property (IP). There are a few different categories of IP protection, and here we will focus on trade marking. We will outline exactly what can be trade marked, the benefits of protecting your IP and an introduction to the mark registration process.
What is a Trade Mark?
A trade mark is a type of Intellectual Property (IP) connected with a particular company, product or service. Trade marks can be words, names, initials, logos, monograms, shapes or signatures, numerals and designs. They are something that customers recognise and associate with your good reputation and the quality of your product or service.
The Importance of Trade Marks
Alongside the obvious advantages of protecting your brand, trade marks can benefit your business in a multitude of ways.
It’s the Identity of Your Business
The identity of your company is the number 1 asset you have as a business owner. This is the bedrock of a successful business and will be the foundation from which to grow. Therefore it is essential to ensure that your branding is indicative of the mission of the business and does not infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property. Having this established from the start will help prevent confusion or issues further down the line.
Effective Communication Tool
For potential customers that don’t know your business, the brand is a great way to communicate what your company is about. A distinctive and polished logo will instil trust in people interacting with your company for the first time. A strong brand will also be the way you create super-fans, and these are key in developing your business. A study found that 83% of people are more likely to buy from a business recommended by family or friends than pay attention to advertising (Neilson Study). Creating a core of customers that feel an authentic connection with a brand and then go and tell others about it is the most effective form of customer acquisition.
Builds Brand Reputation
Consistency is key when building your company and applies to every area, from product to customer service to advertising. Marketing guru, Dr Jeffrey Lant, devised the ‘Rule of 7’ marketing theory. He argues that a potential client is most likely to buy from you after encountering your business roughly 7 times within 18 months. These numbers vary depending on industry and the type of business, but it is unusual for most customers to buy from you the first time they are made aware of you. They want to get to know you, and you need to build trust with them. In the age of information overload, having a clearly identifiable brand ensures that every time one of these ‘touch points’ happens, they know it’s you and understand clearly what you’re about. Your hard work builds this reputation, but a trade mark protects it.
Provides Exclusive Rights
As a business owner, intellectual property protection may not be the most pressing task on your to-do list. However, it is vital to protect all the hard work you have put into your venture. Also, establishing IP protection or at least an understanding of your business’ IP through an IP audit is highly recommended. You may accidentally be infringing on someone else’s IP, or if someone raises an objection against you, having IP protection in place will make it far easier to settle the case quickly. As a business owner, you should also be maintaining your trade mark through a ‘Watching Search’ service. Registered marks can lose their integrity if other similar marks are registered without objection. This will eventually lead to them becoming null and void and unenforceable. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is under no obligation to alert you of such applications, so regularly having an IP agent conduct this search on your behalf is the best way to ensure your mark is upheld.
Trade Marks Do Not Expire If Renewed Every 10 Years
Unlike other forms of IP protection, trade marks can be renewed indefinitely. Registered designs, which protect the appearance of an object, last for 25 years and patents for up to 20 years in the UK. Both services need to be renewed regularly, and enforceable protection ceases once they have reached their full terms. The reason patents and registered design protection runs out is to prevent monopolies and encourage technological advancements. However, a trade mark is different, it’s not an idea but the signature of your business. If you have registered your trade mark and maintained it, it will remain enforceable for the entire lifecycle of your venture.
The IPO (Intellectual Property Office) released figures in 2021 that found ‘Intellectual Property can account for more than 70% of your business’ value, far outweighing the physical assets of the business. This impressive statistic outlines the importance of having protected ownership over your IP. If you come to sell your business, potential buyers will want to know what they are actually purchasing. The physical elements are easy to produce, but on the asset sheet, you can’t forget about the value of your brand. After all, your reputation is what got you to the point of being successful enough to sell the business. A valid trade mark will also come into play if you seek investment. Similar to potential buyers, investors will want to have reassurances about your business and de-risk their capital investment. Having a trade mark is a sign of prestige, enables a monetary value to be put on your business’ brand and is a tangible asset to be added to your business’ asset sheet.
Makes Hiring Easier
It is not only potential customers that are reassured by an established name; future employees will also be encouraged to work for you. The job market is the toughest it’s ever been for employers. The combination of ‘The Great Resignation’, Covid, Brexit and a societal shift in attitude towards how we work has contributed to the ball being very firmly in the employees’ court. To attract top talent and retain them, having a great reputation will catch job seekers’ eyes and get them excited to apply for opportunities to join your team.
How to Register a Trade Mark
Choose a Unique Name
It’s best to choose a few names that you would be happy with and try them out before committing. There are many different types of names to consider; like do you want something quite factual so potential customers can immediately identify what you do? Alternatively, it could be a ‘storytelling’ name that represents the narrative behind the brand. If you are stuck on how to choose the perfect name for your company, we have written an article just for you – check it out here.
Conduct a Name Search
When setting up your business, conduct a name search and research your chosen business name. IP experts can assist you with this and alert you to any businesses currently operating under a similar name or any issues there may be. For example, there are a few prohibited words that cannot be legally used unless a specific application is made to the relevant authorities. You will also want to understand how easily a trade mark could be registered, and for this, it is advisable to seek an IP audit from an expert. Start.biz can help with any questions you have – learn more about our IP audits here.
Register a Trade Mark Application
Once all the research has been done and you have received advice from an IP expert, it’s time to register your trade mark. An IP expert can complete these forms on your behalf and take care of all the administration involved. You can apply to the IPO as an individual; however, it can be a complicated and time-consuming process with no guarantee your mark will be accepted. Start.biz has been registering trade marks for over 35 years and is here to help you every step of the way. The application process usually takes approximately 5 months, and your trade mark will need to be renewed every 10 years.
According to annual reports from the IPO, ‘trade mark applications increased by 27.4% to record lestarvels of 137,035 applications in 2020’ and continue to grow year on year, which means that securing your IP protection is more important than ever. A trade mark is a great way to build your reputation, protect against any copycats and add value to your business. Start.biz are here to take care of the process of registering your trade mark giving you the protection you need and peace of mind. Get in touch today for a free IP audit.