What You Need To Know About Trademarking
When you’re trying to trademark an invention or business idea, it can all get a little confusing. While trademarking does fall under intellectual property rights, it’s not the same as ‘patenting’, which is filing so that the owner of an invention has the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling it.
This article will help you understand what a trademark is, why you could use one and how you can apply for one through a legal agent or yourself.
What Is Trademarking?
A trademark protects your business’s branding. It can be a word, phrase, design, symbol or combination that identifies your goods. Also, A trademark is how you distinguish yourself from your competitors, market your product and make people remember your brand. A trademark should:
- Identify the source of your goods or services
- Provide legal protection for your branding
- Help guard you against fraud and counterfeiting
A Trademarking has to be something recognisable as yours. It can’t be general like the colour ‘blue’, which alone isn’t enough to identify a product or brand. It could be a logo continuing blue, but this must be an original representative of your brand.
Different countries have different ways of filing for trademarks. If you want to file for international trademark rights, it will be best to have the support of a law firm. Many large law firms also hire external trademark specialists to help them keep on top of the many details involved in trademark filing and registration.
Common Misconceptions About Trademarks
One of the main misconceptions about trademarks is that they give you ownership over certain words or phrases. Trademarks only give you the rights to certain things in the context of your product. For example, fast-food company Subway owns the slogan ‘Eat Fresh‘, but they don’t own the words ‘eat’ or ‘fresh’. Subway couldn’t sue you for infringement for saying ‘eat fresh food at our restaurant’, but they could press charges if you used the slogan ‘eat fresh’ to promote your sandwich or food establishment, as you’re copying their branding.
Trademarks can’t give you ownership of words, colours or other representatives, and they can only protect how these things are used about your specific goods and services.
How To Apply For A Trademark
In most countries, you can apply for a trademark online through a government website. It is normally advised that you apply through a legal firm, as they will be able to help cover all of the difficult details that you could miss during the application process.
In the UK, there are categories your trademark can fall into. You can use the government’s online database to find out which your product falls into. These are numbered categories organised by item; for example, ‘hats’, ‘top hats’, ‘beanie hats’ and related items are in Class 25. You will need to identify your items class before applying.
Before you apply for a Trademarking, check that you have:
- An original, specific branding idea.
- Proof that your branding is original (concept sketches, written evidence of how you came up with it).
- Made sure that nobody else has already trademarked your idea.
- Checked which category/class your trademark belongs to.
- Enough money to pay the application fees, legal fees and any other payments that may arise throughout the trademark application process.
If you are ready to apply, you can begin to fill out the application form online with initial evidence. Some countries, such as the UK, offer a ‘right start application‘ where you can pay the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) a fee to ensure that nobody has taken your trademark before applying. In the UK, this fee is £100. The fee will likely be higher if you hire a trademark attorney, but they’ll be with you throughout the trademarking process.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Trademark?
The time it takes to get your application approved will depend on:
- The quality of the evidence you submitted – if there are any issues, the IPO may send your application back for amendments.
- Admin times – if it is a particularly busy period, it may take longer to process your application.
- Objections – an ‘objection’ is an issue with your application that may prevent you from getting your trademark.
- Opposition – if someone decides to oppose you for infringing on their trademark. In this case, you should hire legal assistance or may choose to withdraw your application.
If all goes to plan, you’ll get a certificate confirming your trademark is registered. When you’ve got your certificate, you can:
- Object to other trademarks, for example, if you think they are similar to yours.
- Sell, market, licence and mortgage your trade mark.
You must remember to maintain and renew your trademark per your government’s specifications – this will ensure nobody can swoop in and take your branding.