Skip to main content

Guide to Trade Marks and Copyright

Protecting your intellectual property, including brands and trademarks, is vital as they are key assets for businesses, and sometimes the only asset.

Trade marks are fundamental in creating, building and strengthening a business’s brand, which is essential to succeed in any market and often a priceless asset. A brand provides consumers with information about the origin of goods or services and about other features such as economy and quality.

The trade mark landscape can be a minefield and so it is crucial to obtain professional support to guide you through it successfully. 

Frequently asked questions

Here we answer some of our most commonly asked questions about trade marks.

Generally, a trade mark (known as ‘trademark’ in mainland Europe and the US) is a sign which is used by businesses to differentiate their goods and services from others by building a memorable and recognisable brand.

A trade mark can consist of a number of things, including: words, for example Coca Cola; slogans, such as ‘If Carlsberg did…’; designs, for instance Apple’s apple; letters for example i-pod; internet domain names, such as; sounds, like Microsoft Windows 95’s start-up jingle; and even colours, for instance the turquoise of Heinz’s baked beans. 

It is important to register a trade mark to prevent these assets from being used by other businesses, particularly businesses competing in the same market. You can find more about trade mark registration on our Trade Mark Registration and Application page.

While both copyright and trade mark protect intellectual property, they protect different types of property. Copyright protects literary and artistic works, such as books, paintings, music, videos. Trade marks protect items that contribute to a company’s brand, such as names, slogans and logos.

Copyright is automatically created when the piece of work is created while a trade mark must actively be registered and renewed.

A registered trade mark lasts for 10 years. At the end of the 10 years, the trade mark can be renewed for a further 10 years. Renewal can occur as many times as required. This is the case for trade marks registered in the UK and also trade marks registered in the EU.

A trade mark advisor or trade mark attorney is someone who has additional training and qualifications specific to trade marks. These professionals are best placed to advise on how to protect your intellectual property.

Trade mark classes are groups of goods and services which are deemed to be similar and which are used to indicate what goods and services a trade mark relates to.

For example, Class 25 covers clothing while Class 36 incorporates financial, insurance, monetary, and real estate services.

When trade marking a name or logo, the first step is to ensure that the name or logo is not already a registered trade mark. A trade mark advisor can carry out a trade mark search on the name and/or logo that you are proposing to use. This will identify any trade marked name and/or logo that is the same or sufficiently similar to the one you are proposing to register.

Provided there are no registered trade marks of concern, a trade mark application can then be completed and submitted to the relevant authority, depending on where the trade mark is to be registered. In the UK, this is the Intellectual Property Office. A trade mark advisor can complete the application process for you. Find out more about How to Register a Trade Mark.

It is possible to register a trade mark through a single application in several different countries under an international agreement known as the Madrid Protocol. All member states of the European Union, the United States of America and much of Asia are parties to the agreement. An application for an EU trade mark can also be made through the EU Intellectual Property Office. 

A trade mark advisor will be able to advise you on registering trade marks in other countries. Find out more on our International Trade Marks page.

If you receive a cease and desist letter, it is important that you seek professional legal advice immediately. A trade mark advisor will be able to review the content of any letter with you and, depending on whether there is any merit in its claims, respond accordingly.

On 1st January 2021, the UK Intellectual Property Office created comparable UK Trade marks and re-registered UK designs for every registered EU trade mark and Registered Community Design (RCD).

They have the same legal status as if they were applied for and registered under UK law, and will keep the original filing date, meaning that protection will continue to apply in the UK from that original date.

How can Thorntons Trade Mark Agency help?

We have a team of trade mark experts, including a Trade Mark Attorney, with specialist knowledge and experience on hand to help you. Whether you have received a cease and desist letter, are looking to register a trade mark or are just looking for more general commercial, intellectual property or brand advice, we will guide you through the process, providing you with a bespoke service tailored to your business’s needs.

Being an all service firm, we can also provide corporate, employment and property advice for your business.

Call us on 03330 430 350 for comprehensive trade mark support and advice. Or make an enquiry online and one of our Trade Mark Agency team will contact you.