The name of your business and your products and services helps people to find and remember you. But with something so valuable, have you got proper legal protection in place for your name and brands?

What would you do if someone took your name and used it themselves? Or if someone started using a similar name, and people began getting confused as to who is who?

Protecting your business and brand names as registered trade marks is key to protecting your business identity. As someone who has been helping businesses large and small for almost 19 years, here are some things you should know.

1. Avoiding conflict

When you first choose a business or brand name, you need to be very careful not conflict with someone else’s rights. This requires various checks and searches to be made.

The most comprehensive kinds of checks involve searching all relevant trade mark registers for trade marks that match the one you’re interested in, or that are similar, and which cover the same or similar product/services. Investigations on any conflicting marks being used but which are not registered or applied for as trade marks are also very important. Where a business is interested in a range of potential marks, it may be cost-effective to start with some narrowly-focused register checks to look for identical marks, and then run broader checks on the marks that survive this initial screening check.

You can search for a trade mark on the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) website, However, it is very common to make various errors or draw unsupported conclusions from the results you get. It is surprising how often it can fail to disclose marks that a professional level search would pick up.

Obtaining the best information on any conflicting rights out there, and making sense of those rights for your business plans, requires a skilled and experienced Chartered Trade Mark Attorney / trade mark lawyer. Taking shortcuts over what could be your business brand for life could lead you down various expensive potholes and time-wasting dead ends.

2. Registering a limited company name is not enough

Registering a name at Companies House does not give you any legal rights to stop others using the key part of your company name. It also gives you no defence in case someone claims that you have breached their rights by taking that name.  You should get expert advice when setting out on the business journey.

3. Register your brands & business names as a trade mark

Successfully registering your brand as a trade mark can give you exclusive rights in the name. A registered trade mark can be a valuable business asset. It can help defend your business from certain kinds of legal attack. It can also create value for you. But beware: there are at least 33 different ways why trade marks can be refused protection. Getting skilled advice at the beginning of your project can guide you through the obstacles, and help you obtain legal protection that is right and best for you.

4. Navigate disputes over trade marks with skilled assistance

When a problem arises with your business or brand name, what will you do? When deciding, it is important to have a rough idea of the value of the brand or business name you are protecting, and the level of damage somone could cause by their actions. That may set a ceiling for what it is worth to try to sort the problem out.

Budgeting for a dispute can be difficult, but it should be possible to get a ballpark for each stage. Insurance can sometimes be put in place before or after a problem arises, though that will typically be relevant only for litigation.

 

Dealing with problems and disputes over business and brand names is something I do every day. The range of issues can be incredibly broad. The solution will depend on a mix of factors: the value, cost and importance of the problem, the strength of your legal position, who the other side is and what they are doing, and the scope for settling the matter in a negotiated manner or the need to escalate legal action.

If you have any questions or issues that you need help with over protecting and defending your business and brand name rights, get in touch with me by email at jthurgood@hgf.com or via the details below.