Registering a trade mark is a smart step in protecting your brand’s identity. The application to secure your trade mark can be a bit tricky, particularly when it comes ensuring you’ve listed your products and services under the right classification. 

It’s worth understanding the basics of trade mark registration and intellectual property to better protect your business.  

In this article, we’ll go through the different trade mark classes in the UK – read on to learn more. 

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property includes a business’ intangible assets, such as designs, logos or slogans. There’s a broad range of things that can be classed as intellectual property, and they’re usually vital to a business’ brand and identity in their industry. 

Generally, there are four main ways to protect IP under the law: 

How Do I Protect My Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property can be protected in a number of ways, mainly through registration or the right legal documentation and provisions. The kind of protections you choose to give your intellectual property will depend heavily on the kind of intellectual property in question and the options available based on that. 

For example, a logo can be trademarked. However, a special recipe might be considered a trade secret and therefore protected through confidentiality clauses instead. 

What Is A Trade Mark?

A trade mark is anything that is uniquely distinctive to a brand’s identity. There aren’t many limitations on what can constitute a trade mark – smells, logos, pictures, colours, phrases and names can all be trademarked. 

How To Trademark A Name

Registering a business name doesn’t mean you own the name. So, it’s possible for other people to copy it.  Due to this, some businesses choose to trademark their name so it cannot be copied. 

In order to trademark a business name, you will need to make sure that name isn’t already registered as a trademark under the same classifications as yours (more on this later). 

Furthermore, not all names will be considered trade mark worthy, as they may not be distinctive or unique enough to the brand. If you are getting a name trademarked, make sure it meets the requirements to be considered one first. 

How To Register A Trade Mark In The UK

Trade marks are registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). First, you will need to decide on the classification and then check to see if there are already any trade marks registered under it. 

If there aren’t, then you can proceed with completing and submitting your trademark application. 

Once the IPO office has reviewed and approved your application, it will then be up for opposition for two months. During this time, if anyone disagrees with your trade mark being registered they are able to come forward. 

After the opposition period is finished, your trade mark is then officially registered.  

Trade Mark Classes In The UK

There are currently 45 trade mark classes. The classification your trade mark falls under will depend on the product or service your business is providing. For example, if you are selling dresses, then you will be classified under clothing. 

It’s vital to select the right trade mark class from the beginning of your application as it cannot be changed later on. Furthermore, filing the wrong classification can jeopardise your application and you will likely need to start the process all over again- it’s best to get it right from the start! 

You run a search for trade mark classes here

How Long Does A Trade Mark Last?

Once a trademark has been successfully registered, it will last for 10 years from the date of registrations. After 10 years, the trademark will need to be renewed. A trademark can be renewed either 6 months before or after its expiry date. As long as it’s done within the timeframe, trademarks can be renewed online

How To Protect A Trade Mark Internationally 

If you’re expanding your business operations overseas, then you will likely want to protect your trademark in those locations as well. In order to protect a trade mark internationally, there are two options: 

  • Apply with the local trade mark office at the country or regions you wish to expand to
  • Use the Madrid system for for an international trademark 

The Madrid System is an international trademark system that has over 128 participating countries. The Madrid System is usually the more attractive option, as it’s simply one application as opposed to multiple ones.  

How Else Can I Protect My Intellectual Property?

As we mentioned above, not all forms of intellectual property can be registered like a trade mark. However, there is no need to worry! There are a number of legal options you can choose to proceed with to make sure your intellectual property remains protected.  

Non-Compete Clauses

Non-compete clauses are often used in contracts with employees and suppliers. The clauses essentially prevent them from disclosing any confidential information to any unauthorised third party once they no longer have a relationship with the business. 

Non-compete clauses can be used to protect intellectual property and minimise competition, however, a non-compete clause must be written to protect a legitimate business interest. Otherwise, they can be seen as limiting the rights of the party the clause is being held to. 

Example
Sam runs a successful publishing company. Sarah is leaving Sam’s to work for another publisher. However, she is not allowed to talk about certain things from her old job such as the clients, intellectual property and their contractual agreements. 

As this protects the business’ interest and does not impose unreasonable restrictions on Sarah, the non-compete clause is likely to be upheld by the law.  

Confidentiality Clauses

Confidentiality clauses are another way to protect intellectual property. The clause ensures anyone who has had access to your business’ intellectual property is not able to reveal or discuss it with another at any point. 

Confidentiality clauses are often added to employment agreements to prevent employees from sharing a business’ inside information. For example, if you run a bakery, you may wish to have a confidentiality clause in your employee contracts to ensure your staff don’t share your recipes with anyone else. 

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are another way to protect the privacy of your business. Much like non-compete and confidentiality clauses, a non-disclosure agreement works to ensure the privacy of your business by getting another party to legally swear secrecy. 

Let’s say you are showing your business plan to potential investors. Before handing them the documents that contain your intellectual property, research and ideas, it’s wise to get them to sign a Business Plan Non-Disclosure Agreement so they cannot take or misuse information from your plan. 

Key Takeaways

Protecting your intellectual property is an important step in securing your business’ future. Getting your trade mark application right can lead to securing an important piece of intellectual property for the next 10 years (and even more). 

Seeking the help of a legal professional can make this process much easier. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Intellectual property refers to a business’ intangible assets that are usually protected through registration or legal documents
  • Trade marks can be registered with the IPO as long as it meets the relevant requirements
  • A large part of getting your trade mark application right is selecting the correct classification 
  • Trade marks can also be protected internationally through the Madrid System
  • Intellectual property can gain protection through confidentiality clauses, non-compete clauses and non-disclosure agreements 

If you would like a consultation on trademark classes, you can reach us at 08081347754 or [email protected] for a free, no-obligations chat.

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