While you technically cannot copyright the name of a business you can trademark a business name. This can be done under the Trademarks Act 1994.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark provides protection as a way for one business to distinguish itself from another.
In business a trademark protects gives an identity to something that can then not be imitated by competitors.
What Types of Trademarks are there?
A trademark can be for a name, word, phrase or any other identifying unique feature of a business. When a business is registered with Companies House it is not automatically under trademark protection.
It can, however, be registered as intellectual property with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
How Do You Trademark a Business Name?
There is a format in which to ensure successful trademarking applications of a business name:
Establish a business name for trademark
- One of the best ways to ensure a business name trademark application is successful is to create a completely new name or word. This is called a ‘coined word.’ A coined word or ‘fanciful’ mark has no other meaning than the purpose it was created for, such as the business name. It is a completely made-up word examples include names such as Google, Kodak and other well-known household brands.
- Any famous names or other established brands cannot be used without written permission.
- If the Trademark is too closely related to a product name or there is a purposeful misspelling of words the application will also be denied.
Check if the name already exists and is protected under trademark
- This means making sure no one else has the business name or anything too similar. This is to not infringe on anyone else’s trademarked name:
- If someone does own the website domain name, you can still register your business name as a trademark. however, this means that any online presence may be under a slightly different domain than the company or business name.
- The business owner should check that the website domain, name of the business and any other relevant product names that may be under a potential trademark is available. This can be done through the UK Intellectual Property (UKIPO) Database or The Chartered Institute of Trademarks. However, if an application for a trademark for a business name has anything too descriptive the trademark application will be rejected.
Choose which classes the business name is going to be registered in
- There are classes of trademarks. Registering a business name involves deciding on a class of goods and services used in certain areas, there are 45 trademark classes regarding goods and 11 regarding services. This class system is called the Nice classification and covers different areas and industries such as but not limited to:
- CLASS 1. Science, agriculture, cosmetic ingredients and musical instruments such as Fender’s copyright for their headstock shape.
- CLASS 43. Each class list is given in detail and what is included and excluded from each pertaining class.
Apply to the UK Intellectual Property Office.
- Applying online to register a trademark is the cheapest available option. The prices stand at:
- £170, register a name in a single class with £50 for every additional class
- Postal application, £200 to register a name in a single class and then £50 for every additional class
- If a business owner chooses to pay for the UKIPO online Right Start service there is a £100 cost reduction and then £25 per additional class.
How Long is a Trademark Valid For?
Once the trademark is registered successfully there it is valid for ten years. However, it will have to be inactive use to maintain the trademark.
There is a renewal every ten years but that does not mean you have to reapply unless aspects of the trademark are changed such as the font, design etc. Protecting a trademark means actively enforcing it.
Infringement is usually pursued under civil law. However, sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter from a solicitor is usually enough to stop illegal use of the trademark because of the legal rights the trademark brings.