Registered trademarks: Did you know...?
Protecting a brand is as important as protecting any other business asset - so after finding a great business name, many businesses think about registering their new name as a trademark.
Everyone knows that a logo can be a trademark - but symbols, sounds, words and phrases can also be registered, so a business’s name can be a trademark, too. Registering a company name as a trademark allows a business to legally protect its brand name.
Here's some facts that might not know about registered trademarks.
1. You can't register a trademark 'in advance'
You can only register a business name as a trademark if your business is already using the name or has a bona fide intention of doing so. And the registration has to be made in the business owner's name. (That's why Novanym's business names aren't already registered as trademarks, even if they're unique.)
2. Your name is protected, even without registering it
Because trademarks are a form of Intellectual Property (IP), similar to copyright and patents, your name might already be protected against 'passing off', even if it's not a registered trademark. (Enforcement of IP laws isn't straightforward, though - the formal registration of a trademark makes legal action easier).
3. Registering a trademark is not the same as registering a trade name
Registering your business with your county clerk’s office or with the relevant state government, or in the UK with Companies House just allows you to trade legally under that name - it has nothing to do with trademark protection.
4. Registering a trademark only offers protection in one country
And it only covers you for the goods and services that you detail in your application.
5. It's not essential to have a unique name to register it
Two or more companies can register the same name as a trademark - if they are registered for different products or services. As Apple know.
6. Descriptive or generic words can't be registered as trademarks
...even if they are misspelled. So Handbags of Luxury can't be registered. And neither can Handbagz Luxxury.
7. It's easier to trademark a made-up name
They're less likely to have been used by anyone else - and they're not descriptive or generic.
8. A trademark lasts for 10 years, with no annual renewal
But you can't change the goods or services covered, so if your product range or service offering is likely to expand or change, you should include all potential goods or services in your initial application.
9. Only registered trademarks can use the ® symbol
Whereas anyone can use the TM symbol, which is just a way of asserting a claim to a trademark under general Intellectual Property law, but comes with no legal protection.
10. Legal enforcement is up to the trademark owner
...not the registering authorities (the USPTO in the US or the IPO in the UK).
11. You don't need to register your domain name
Because nobody can just add a domain extension (like a .com or .co.uk) to a name that is otherwise identical to an existing registered trademark, registering your business name on its own - without the .com - will offer you full protection.