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A guide to intellectual property rights – trademarks

10th July 2015

A trademark is defined as a sign or symbol used by a trader to distinguish its products or services from those of other traders. If you have a business, trademarks can be of great value and are often one of your most valuable assets. Not only can registering your trademark safeguard against infringement, you can license it out for others to use it.

Martin de Ridder, solicitor in the dispute resolution and employment teams at Ansons Solicitors in Cannock, explains how you apply for a trademark and your rights with or without one.

Examples of trademarks include:

  • a brand name;
  • a company logo; or
  • packaging.

A trademark can also consist of the shapes of products or their packaging, such as the Coca Cola bottle, and colours associated with a trading style, such as the Cadbury’s purple colour for chocolate. Even sounds, smells and slogans can be trademarked. However, it is more difficult to register these marks.

Trademark owners can apply for a UK or a community trademark (CTM). A UK-registered trademark is only enforceable in the UK, while a CTM is enforceable throughout the EU. Both registrations last for ten years, but are renewable for further ten-year periods.

To be registrable, a trademark must be:

  • capable of being represented graphically;
  • distinctive;
  • capable of distinguishing goods or services; and
  • not excluded by law.

You may have protection with an unregistered trademark, if what is known as goodwill can be established. If you feel your trademark has been infringed you can make a claim for passing off, but this can be difficult to prove and expensive. The following must be established:

proof of a reputation in the mark;

a misrepresentation that could mislead the public; and

proof of damage (for example, financial loss or damage to goodwill).

When you believe your trademark is being misused it is important to get the advice of an expert corporate and commercial solicitor, to save you both time and unnecessary costs. One of our lawyers can help you through the complete process of applying for a trademark, represent you if it is being used unlawfully, or help advise you on making a claim for passing off.

For further information about trademarks and your intellectual property rights, contact Martin de Ridder on 01543 431 186 or email mderidder@ansonsllp.com. Ansons Solicitors has offices in Cannock and Lichfield, Staffordshire.