If you are setting up a new company, there is one important area that businesses often forget to check, sometimes with significant financial consequences and disruption to the business. That area is trade marks.
The obvious checks to make when looking to establish your new company are to make sure the name is available on Companies House and can be registered as a company. In the internet age, you may also conduct online searches to determine if the name is in use elsewhere by any third party and perhaps register the relevant domain names.
These steps are sensible and essential. However, they do not tell the full story of whether your chosen name is actually available for use.
A Register of trade marks exists in the UK, totally separate from the Companies House Register, which can and should be checked. What would happen if your brand (or something too similar to it) was already registered as a trade mark by a third party for conflicting goods or services?
Why do so many SMEs fail to check for any risks that their new company may be infringing a registered trade mark with the same or a similar name?
These are questions new companies should ask themselves, particularly as they will have spent significant time and money on marketing and investing in their brand and company name.
It is advisable to seek professional analysis of the results of any trade mark search so that the legal issues are made clear. Checking the Trade Marks Register in this way provides the additional peace of mind to know that in the UK, your brand is available and free from potential legal problems.
So, if a trade mark search has been done, at what point should you consider registering your brand as a trade mark?
What would happen if you had no trade mark registration in place and you wanted to stop someone from copying your brand? What would happen if you decided not to register the trade mark and someone else did so later?
A registration provides you with a valuable intangible asset that can be licensed or sold on with the business, as well as providing a robust legal deterrent to potential third parties who may copy your brand. Your business is all about your brand, so why wouldn’t you look after it?
When purchasing a new car, wouldn’t you want to test drive it before parting with the cash? Wouldn’t you obtain insurance for the car before hitting the road?
Of course you would! New businesses should view a trade mark search as their essential test drive and obtaining registered brand protection as their ‘brand insurance.’