What is a Trademark?
A trademark is any sign which can distinguish or identify the goods and services of one trader from those of another. Registered trademarks and the law of passing-off protects names and logos of businesses or products and the reputation and goodwill generated under them.
For the purposes of a trade mark application, a sign includes words, logos, colours, slogans, three-dimensional shapes and sometimes sounds and gestures.
A trade mark is essentially a "badge" of trade origin. It is used as a marketing tool or ‘brand’ so that customers can recognise that product. To be registrable in the UK it must also be capable of being represented
graphically, that is, in words and/or pictures.
What protection does a trademark give?
If you register a trademark, you have legal protection in that registration establishes that it is a trademark and who owns it. The owner then has exclusive right to use the trademark and can take legal action for infringement to prevent unauthorized usage.
What are the benefits of trade mark registration?
There are many benefits of registering your trademark. It gives you the exclusive right to use it for the goods and/or services for which it is registered.
It enables the owner to take action against anyone else who uses it - the fact that you have registered your mark means that any infringer has to take you seriously.
It enables Trading Standards Officers (or Police) to bring criminal charges against counterfeiters - the 1994 Trade Marks Act obliges Trading Standards Officers to take action on your behalf if your mark is registered, and the service is free.
Further Advantages of Registration:
A Registered Trade Mark is an item of property - this means it can be sold, or rented out by licensing, etc.
Unregistered marks have to rely on the common law action of 'passing off' - passing off actions are extremely expensive (they require large amounts of evidence that you have used the mark sufficiently to claim ownership, and then further evidence that customers were under the impression that they were buying your goods rather than the infringer's)
Unregistered marks may have rights limited to a confined geographical area - it is very difficult, particularly for smaller companies, to prove that they have a trading reputation in every corner of the UK. Registration gives you protection throughout the UK, even if you do not have a trading.
What happens if someone infringes my trademark?
If someone unlawfully uses a trademark – for example when they use a sign identical with, or similar to, a registered mark in respect of identical or similar goods or services and the public is likely to be confused by the similar mark, this is trademark infringement.
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