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How to use your trade mark after registration?

A common question that we get asked is how should a trade mark be used once you have obtained registration. Luckily, there are guidelines available for this, and I’ll summarise them in this post.

Imagine a customer looking to buy a new pair of sunglasses. She finds the section for her favourite brand only to notice that the font in their logo is different. This can cause confusion and might end up costing the company a sale. Incorrect use of a trade mark can also jeopardise its validity and protection against copycats.

Having and following guidelines for trade mark usage are essential in building a brand. After all, you’d want strong brand recognition. Most importantly, proper use of a trade mark will protect it from unlawful use. So how should you use a trade mark?

A logo trade mark and its consistent use

The colour, format, font and placement of a logo is very important for branding. If your logo was filed with a specific colour scheme, then it should always be used in those colours. When providing your trade mark to a third party, you should provide the colour specification (pantone). You should also create and provide brand guidelines on the way your trade mark should be used and printed to everyone using your branding.

The image from University of East Anglia below displays how their logo should be used.

university-east-anglia-logo-guidelines

Using the ® icon in advertising and labelling

The ® icon is used to alert the public that a sign is a protected mark and discourage others from using it. Although not compulsory, you should use it in advertisements and labels because of the wider visibility that these receive. Using it will deter copycats from taking advantage of a trade mark.

A trade mark is an adjective

A trade mark is an adjective so it cannot be expressed as a noun or or verb. An example of this is as follows:

Correct: I had a coffee from Starbucks in the morning.

Incorrect: I had a Starbucks in the morning.

I’ll use another brand to illustrate the point. Ray-Ban would need to be used as follows:

Correct: Buy the latest Ray-Ban sunglasses on sale now!

Incorrect: Latest Ray-Bans are on sale now!

Incorrect use of a trade mark combined with its common use can make it genericised. In this case, a trade mark become so common that they lose their value as a trade mark. This was the case with trade marks such as Hoover, Aspirin and Kleenex. A trade mark being genericised is more common for very well known brands than lesser known ones.

Further guidelines for trade mark use

For greater impact, the trade mark can be distinguished using italic, bold or capitalised letters. It’s also common to monitor the use of your trade marks by third parties. If you license or franchise your brand, it is necessary to keep an eye on how others are using it. Finally, there should be a regular review of your trade marks to see if they need to be registered, licensed or renewed.

If you would like further information about use of your trade mark, please contact us on 020 7791 9050 or email us at trademark@freemanharris.co.uk.

Jose Mourinho’s Trade Mark: Can Companies Own a Name

Jose Mourinho and his trademark with Chelsea

During the recent announcement of Jose Mourinho being signed as the manager of Manchester United, it was revealed that his name is a trade mark owned by Chelsea. This was reported to be a stumbling block which delayed the signing. This raises the question on whether a company can own a person’s name as a trade mark.

The history of Jose Mourinho’s trade mark

Chelsea Football Club filed ‘Jose Mourinho’ as a trade mark in 2005 under various classes. This was a first where a managers name was registered as a trade mark. The popularity and marketability of Jose Mourinho was the reason why they decided to obtain the trade mark. The football manager has been successful in carving out a brand for himself.

Can a company own the trade mark instead of the person?

The owner of the trade mark is the entity that has filed for it to be registered. In this specific case, Chelsea Football Club filed for the trade mark and they would have obtained permission from Jose Mourinho himself. The name is a commercial entity which can be used for trade purposes and that is why it was protected. If a company has the relevant permission, it can file a trade mark and count it as one of their IP assets. From Jose’s perspective, the better way would have been to file a trade mark himself and license it to Chelsea.

Licensing a trade mark instead

A person or company would be better off by obtaining a trade mark and then licensing it out to another party. This is something that would be negotiated by Jose Mourinho’s legal team, but they will have to cover the costs of the transfer as well as potential loss of earnings. Without the permission of the trade mark owner, Manchested United would not be able to use the name on their merchandise or any commercial activity in general.

This is a unique situation, and the parties involved would be able to find solution primarily because of the clout of these Football clubs. They can afford to spend money on legal fees and/or licensing fees to use the trade mark. For smaller companies or ones not so financially able, the whole process would be costly and challenging.

Learning from Apple’s trade mark issues in China

Apple's trademark issues with 'iPhone' in China

Apple Inc, the tech giant, recently lost a court battle over the use of the word ‘iPhone’ on leather goods in China. A local company called Xintong Tiandi will continue to have the legal right to use ‘iPhone’ on leather goods. As expected, Apple wasn’t happy with the decision and will be requesting a retrial in the Supreme People’s Court. As this trade mark battle continues, what lessons can be learned from this episode?

The trade mark system in China

The Chinese trade mark system is considered to be complex and murky. Trade marks can be filed on a ‘first to file’ basis instead of ‘first to use’ basis. What this means is that any company that files a trade mark first has an opportunity to obtain the registration. A trade mark search in the Chinese Trade Mark Office website shows 247 different results for ‘iPhone’ under different trade mark classes. Most of these are from local companies.

‘iPhone’ trade mark history in China

Apple filed a trade mark application for the word ‘iPhone’ in 2002, but only for computer hardware and software. The registration was granted in 2013. Xintong Tiandi had filed for its ‘iPhone’ trade mark in 2007 when the iPhone went on sale globally. The court decided that trade mark wasn’t popular and synonymous with Apple in China until 2009 when it was introduced in the country. Based on this, they lost the case.

Learning from Apple’s trade mark issues

Apple previously had an issue with their trade mark ‘iPad’, which they bought from the wrong company. It is common to find ‘trade mark trolls’ in China. Companies looking to expand into China might find that their trade mark is already registered. The most effective method of overcoming this issues is to file your trade mark as soon as possible. Had Apple filed ‘iPhone’ under multiple classes it would not have been in the situation it is in today.

Apple will continue to pursue this case because of its financial strength and a strong case, but most small to medium sized businesses would not be in the position to do so. As stated, the best advice is to protect your brand as soon as you create it.

Why you should use a lawyer to file your trade mark registration

Trade mark lawyer filing a trade mark

Filing a trade mark registration can be an expensive process, so it is unsurprising that many people question whether they should try to reduce costs by filing the application themselves, rather than employing a trade mark attorney. However, it is important to weigh up the potential savings against the risk of problems and higher costs later on that can come from not having professional help. Any errors made in your trade mark application can end up being very costly, both in time and money.

Correctly Filed Trade Mark Application

If your trade mark application is improperly filled in, or incorrectly filed, then it is very likely to be rejected and you will lose the filing fees. If you want to try again to register your trade mark, you will have to pay the full fees again, making the filing process a lot more costly than necessary. Using a trade mark lawyer to help you file your application means that it will be filled in correctly the first time, leading to a much lower risk that it will get rejected, saving you the cost of subsequent re-applications.

Using a trade mark attorney can also speed up the process of obtaining your trade mark. The application process can take 5-8 months depending on the type of trade mark. If you fill in the application yourself and it is rejected due to mistakes, you will have to re-apply and potentially wait another 8 months for your trade mark protection. A professional trade mark lawyer will know how to file your application correctly, greatly reducing the chance that your application will be rejected and the process will have to be repeated.

Once you file an application, your trade mark is provisionally protected, but you cannot enforce this protection by filing a trade mark infringement or damages claim until the trade mark registration is complete. If your application is rejected because you have filled it out incorrectly, this leaves you without protection and your competitors could use your mark without any legal consequences.

Trade Mark Classes & Descriptions

The trade mark application process is a lengthy and relatively complicated one, particularly when it comes to classifications. There are 45 classes of goods and services that you have to choose from, and often registrations fail because the incorrect class or classes were indicated on the application. In addition to this, if you select a class on your trade mark application, then don’t use your mark for those specific goods or services within 5 years or registration, your trade mark could be challenged and possibly revoked. A trade mark lawyer will be familiar with all of the classes and their definitions, and will be able to advise you on which ones you should select to protect your trade mark, removing the confusion and considerably decreasing the risk of your application being rejected.

Third parties, i.e. your competitors, have an opportunity to oppose your trade mark application as part of the registration process. If this happens, you will have to defend your application.  In the UK, if you fail to defend your application, it is deemed to be abandoned and the you may be liable to pay third party costs.  A trade mark attorney is best placed to advise on the necessary steps to take in case of an opposition. They will find the arguments to put forward for a case and can allow you to overcome that opposition.

UK or EU Registration

When registering a trade mark in the UK, you have a choice of applying for a UK trade mark, or an EU trade mark. The UK trade mark and EU trade mark provide different protections for your brand, and your trade mark attorney will be able to advise on which is best for your business and specific trade mark. Although the EU trade mark filing fees are more expensive than for a UK trade mark, your trade mark attorney will be able to let you know whether it is advisable to apply for EU protection to avoid potential greater costs and barriers to international trading in the future.

So how much does it actually cost to use a trade mark attorney to register a trade mark? Take a look at our trade mark calculator to get an idea of how much your application will cost with our team of experienced lawyers. We offer three different packages – Bronze, Silver and Gold – depending on the level of support you require, and our Gold package even comes with a money-back guarantee!* Plus, you can complete the entire process online with us – no need to come to our offices or spend hours on the phone.

Got more questions? Contact us with your query and we can phone or email you back, or you can talk to us using our live chat feature, we’re here to make the trade mark application process as easy and straightforward as possible for our clients.

*T&Cs apply

What is a trade mark class?

A trade mark class, or classification, is a category which describes the type of goods or services your trade mark represents.

E.g. Class 25 – clothing, footwear, headgear. Class 35 – advertising, business management, business administration

Find out more about trade mark classes

What is the difference between a UK trade mark and an EU trade mark?

A UK trade mark protects your brand in the UK, and is less expensive to file than an EU trade mark.

An EU trade mark, or Community Trade Mark, protects your brand in all 28 countries that are part of the EU.

Find out more about UK and CTM trade marks

Domain Names & Trade Marks

Domain names and trade marks

For many people there can be some confusion surrounding the terms trade mark and domain name, and this blog hopefully clarifies both terms as well as encourage startups and existing businesses to use companies with expertise in these areas.

Will a trademark give you right over a domain?

One question that is often asked is whether having a trade mark, automatically means you have a domain name.  Quite simply, no, they are two different things.  As you know from previous posts a trade mark identifies the origin of goods or services, and if an owner of a good or service would like to use its trade mark as its domain name, the owner must purchase the domain name registration.   There are companies whose brand is their domain name for e.g. ASOS.com. in such a case the domain name needs to be registered as a trade mark.

It is important to note that the use of a domain name merely as an informational part of the domain name holder’s internet address does not qualify as trade mark use.   Some examples of domain name used only as an Internet address include:

  • A domain name that displays only in the Internet address bar
  • A domain name that merely redirects website traffic to another website
  • A domain name that is used in close proximity to language referring to the domain name as an address
  • A domain name that is displayed merely as part of the contact information for the domain name owner

What does a domain need to be considered as a trade mark?

To qualify as a trade mark, the domain name must function as a mark.  That means it must serve as an indicator of source and not merely as an informational part of an Internet address. If the domain name functions separately as an indicator of source, it may be registered with the appropriate trade mark office as a trade mark. For example, a domain name that is displayed prominently and frequently on a webpage might function as a trade mark.  A key factor in determining whether the use of a domain name rises to the level of trade mark use is whether consumers view the domain name as a symbol of origin separate and apart from anything else.

It is important to note that both domain names and trade marks can expire.  The expiration date of a domain name depends on the term agreed when you registered the domain name, and this can easily be renewed.  If a trade mark is not renewed before the due date, the registration expires (they usually run for ten year periods).  These processes are both quite straight-forward (but many people make mistakes, which can be costly and time consuming), so Trademark Hub are always on hand if you ever have any questions, or if you need to renew your trade mark.

Remember, a trade mark and a domain name are not the same, and quite simply are two very different things.  The two can inter-link, however, it is advised that you speak to an expert when looking at getting any aspect of your business trade marked, even if it is the domain name!

US Trade Mark Categories – Infographic

A person searching for US trade mark categories

The process of registering a trade mark is different across the pond in the United States. Trade marks in the US are divided by categories, which are ranked by distinctiveness. This system allows the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) to evaluate trade mark applications. The 5 categories are listed as follows:

  • Fanciful trade marks: Fanciful trade marks are made-up words which are invented to be used as a trade mark name. They don’t have a meaning or are associated with anything. Good examples of fanciful trade marks include Polaroid and Exxon. From a legal point of view, once fanciful trade marks have become reputable, they would be easier to protect due to their uniqueness. It would be easy to find and prevent competitors from using a similar or identical mark.
  • Arbitrary trade marks: Arbitrary trade marks are words that have a real, common meaning. However, the meaning of the mark is unrelated to the goods or services offered under the mark. Good examples of arbitrary trade marks include Apple and Dove. Apple is a fruit, but it doesn’t have any relation to computer hardware produced by Apple.
  • Suggestive trade marks:  A suggestive trade mark is named after a characteristic of the product or service. There has to be an imaginative element to the trade mark so that the consumers can make a connection with the goods or service. Good examples of suggestive trade marks include Netflix and Microsoft. Netflix suggests online films in a suggestive and unique manner. A potential problem with suggestive trade marks is that some of them can be seen as descriptive by others.
  • Descriptive trade marks: Descriptive trade marks are descriptive of the goods or service. They can partly or wholly describe the goods or services being sold under the mark.  Good examples of descriptive trademarks include British Airways and Best Buy. For a descriptive mark to acquire substantial protection by the USPTO, the brand has to develop a “secondary meaning”, which is developed through “significant advertising budget” and over a 5 year period.
  • Generic trade marks: Generic trademarks cannot be protected as they are simply a generic description of the product or service. The USPTO has decided that categorical terms should be freely available for public use. Good examples of generic trademarks include Band Aid and Thermos. Certain marks, like the examples provided, were once protected trade marks, but they have been afflicted with “genericide”. This is when a word becomes so generic it loses its legal power as a trade mark.

Our infographic below summarises the five categories with examples of famous trade marks in each category.

Infographic displaying trade mark categories used in USA

It should be noted that the generic trade marks shown in the image above have all been afflicted with ‘genericide’.

Now, which category of trade marks should you choose in the US. It is unanimously agreed that fanciful and arbitrary trade marks are the way to go. They are easier to register, and make it easy for you to enforce your protection in the future. However, most companies would prefer to register a suggestive or descriptive trade mark so that consumers can make an instant connection with the goods and service sold under the mark. From a marketing perspective, it would take considerable time and effort to build a brand reputation with a fanciful or arbitrary mark. Hence the preference for the other two categories.

When looking to register a trade mark in the US, you should speak to a trade mark attorney in order to get professional advice. They will help you choose the right mark, which is sound from a legal perspective and is also marketable.

Understanding Trade Mark Classes

Image showing an idea and understanding trademark classes

What is a Trade Mark?

Briefly, a trade mark is a sign which can distinguish your goods/services from those of other traders. This can include: for example, words, logos, colours or a combination.

Very often companies use their trade mark as a marketing tool, not only so that customers recognise their products/services but also because it can be a very valuable asset, and very often products/services which are trademarked are deemed to be reliable and of good quality.   Plus in the event of conflict with other brands and companies your registered trade mark can assist you.

The Trade Mark Classification

The Trade Mark Classification system is divided between goods, in classes 1 – 34 and services, in classes 35 – 45.  The examples provided in these classes are not exhaustive and you would therefore need to use the Classification Search Tool if your goods/services were not on the list.  This is because your trade mark gives your product or service the correct protection, and very often applications fail because the correct class or classes were not indicated when submitting an application.

It can be confusing and due to the costs involved (especially if you have to make repeat applications) it is advised that using a Trade Mark Attorney makes for a much easier process.

Some of the classes for the Classification of Goods include:-

Class 11 - Apparatus for lighting, heating, steam generating, cooking, refrigerating, drying, ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes; air conditioning apparatus; electric kettles; gas and electric cookers; vehicle lights and vehicle air conditioning units.
Class 12 - Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water; wheelchairs; motors and engines for land vehicles; vehicle body parts and transmissions.

Class 15 - Musical instruments; stands and cases adapted for musical instruments.
Class 16 - Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; artists’ materials; paint brushes; typewriters and office requisites (except furniture); instructional and teaching material (except apparatus); plastic materials for packaging (not included in other classes); printers’ type; printing blocks.
Class 25 - Clothing, footwear, headgear.

Some of the classes for the Classification of Services include:-

Class 35 -  Advertising; business management; business administration; office functions; organisation, operation and supervision of loyalty and incentive schemes; advertising services provided via the Internet; production of television and radio advertisements; accountancy; auctioneering; trade fairs; opinion polling; data processing; provision of business information; retail services connected with the sale of [list specific goods].
Class 36 - Insurance; financial services; real estate agency services; building society services; banking; stockbroking; financial services provided via the Internet; issuing of tokens of value in relation to bonus and loyalty schemes; provision of financial information.
Class 38 -  Telecommunications services; chat room services; portal services; e-mail services; providing user access to the Internet; radio and television broadcasting.
Class 43 -  Services for providing food and drink; temporary accommodation; restaurant, bar and catering services; provision of holiday accommodation; booking and reservation services for restaurants and holiday accommodation; retirement home services; creche services.

The reason that there is a Classification List of 45 classes is an attempt to ease the process of identifying which category your particular goods or services belong.  Basically:

  •         a product is classified according to its function or purpose.
  •         raw materials are classified according to the material of which they consist.
  •         services are classified according to activity
  •         information services are classified in the same classes as the services that correspond to the subject matter of the advice.

Since the implementation of the new Trade Marks Act on 31 October 1994 applicants have been able to file an application covering more than one class of goods/services, these are more commonly called multi-class applications, and are a very useful tool for some companies.

When filing a trade mark application, you must identify which class or classes of goods/services you wish to apply for and pay a separate filing fee for each class.

Although the trade mark office reviews each class of goods and services independently, you should file an application to cover all classes that you intend to file your trade mark under. Even if your trade mark is rejected for a specific class, you will still be able to register your trade mark for the remaining classes.

The value of filing your trade mark is supported by the fact that a 2011 IPO (Intellectual Property Office) study found that companies who apply for trade marks are on average 7% more productive than those that do not.

In 2014 there were 110,838 UK trade mark applications, and these are increasing year on year, and the benefits are substantial.

However, the classification list is long, and it can be hard to ascertain quite where your product or service sits, and it can be far easier to seek the help and advice of a trade mark attorney who deals with these applications on a regular basis.

Differences between an EU trade mark and a UK trade mark

Difference between an EU and UK trade mark in an infographic
From the 23rd of March, there have been changes to the EU trade mark registration process. This post has been updated to reflect those changes.

Trade mark protection is regional. A trade mark registered in the UK will only protect the brand in the UK. Companies that trade in different countries have to file a trade mark in each country separately, unless all the countries are part of the European Union (EU). The EU offers a single trade mark registration for all member countries called the EU Trade Mark.

Deciding between a EU trade mark and a UK trade mark

If you trade in countries, which are part of the EU and you wish to protect your brand in these countries, then you should file an EU trade mark. An EU trade mark registration will also protect your brand in the UK and it is a cheaper alternative to filing in each country individually.The brand protection is valid in all 28 countries which are part of the EU.

If you trade only in the UK and wish to protect your brand in the UK, then a UK trade mark is the way to go. Financially, it is cheaper than filing an EU trade mark application and it allows you prevent others from filing a confusingly similar mark in the UK and the EU.

The downside of a EU trade mark and a UK trade mark

An EU trade mark registration protects your brand throughout the EU so no specific country can be selected or excluded.The trade mark application is also at a higher risk of facing an objection from the European trade mark office or an opposition from the owner of an earlier right. As for a UK trade mark registration, it does not give you rights outside of the UK territory.

Please note that if your application is refused, you will not be able to recover the filing fees paid.

Difference between an EU and UK trade mark in an infographic

The Fees

EU trade mark – £700 (€850) for 1 class | £45 (€50) for 2nd class | £135 (€150) per extra class

UK trade mark – £170 for 1 class | £50 per extra class

You can calculate the fees for your trade mark by using our trade mark calculator.

Deciding between filing your application in the UK or the EU is not always as straightforward as you might think. In doubts, it is highly advisable to consult with a specialist in trade mark law who will be able to give you the best trade mark filing strategy adapted to your needs. Click here to complete our form and one of our trade mark lawyer will contact you to discuss your options.

The Trade Mark Registration Process In The UK – Infographic

A flow chart of the trade mark process in the UK

Trade marks registration can be a complicated process. This is why the entire process can take between 4 to 5 months. There is no guarantee that the trade mark will be registered, but if clear guide lines are followed and a trade mark attorney is involved, your trade mark has a good chance of being filed. A trade mark is in essence your brand. It has to be unique for it to be registered. A registered trade mark gives the owner legal rights to take action against others who use the brand name without permission. Trade mark protection is limited to the country where the trade mark has been registered.

If you trade in the UK only, then you should register a trade mark in the UK. The infographic below shows the trade mark registration process in the UK.

A flow chart of the trade mark process in the UK

The Trade Mark Registration Process In The EU – Infographic (Updated)

Flow chart of the EU trademark
From the 23rd of March, there have been changes to the EU trade mark registration process. This post has been updated to reflect those changes.

The European Union (EU) provides business owners an opportunity to register a trade mark in all the member states of the EU through a EU Trade Mark. The process has some similarities to the UK trade mark registration process. The registration process takes between 5 to 8 months and gives the trade mark owner legal rights to take action against others who use the brand name without permission.

If you trade in the EU, or looking to expand into the EU then you should register a EU trade mark. The infographic below shows the trade mark registration process in the EU.

The EU trademark process displayed in a flow chart.