So — you're interested in registering a trademark in the UK?
Registering a trademark is the most effective way to protect your business.
Many entrepreneurs incorrectly assume that registering as a sole trader, registering a domain name, or registering your business with Companies House means that the brand is protected. In reality, applying for a trademark is a separate process, and one that is just as important as the rest.
It can all feel a little confusing to navigate. Third-party providers often take advantage of this uncertainty by charging high rates to oversee it on your behalf. But, submitting a trademark is actually quite straightforward.
In this article, we'll explain how you do it.
This article will cover:
- What is a trademark?
- How long does it typically take to register a trademark?
- Trademarks, patents and copyright: what's the difference?
- How to register your UK trademark
- 1. Define your trademark
- 2. Explore the trademark register
- 3. Select your trademark classification
- 4. Submit your application
- 5. Address any feedback
- Trademark registration costs
- Next Steps: Protecting Your Trademark After Registration
- Trademark FAQs
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a legally-recognised piece of intellectual property that identifies products or services from a particular source and distinguishes the goods of one enterprise from another.
Typically this would range from your company or business logo, a particular slogan or set of slogans, and any other brand assets you consider paramount to your business.
A registered trade mark protects you from anyone who might want to copy or steal the intellectual property you've created for your business, and gives you the right to take legal action if someone attempts to do so. It also allows you to sell or license your brand to third parties if necessary.
It's the reason why not just anyone can start selling McDonald's T-Shirts, or selling Starbucks drinks, and allows businesses to carve a space for themselves in an industry or niche so it is well worth the investment to obtain the rights for yours.
How long does it typically take to register a trademark?
How long it takes to complete your filing will differ depending on your unique business attributes. However, most applications take around four months to conclude.
Trademarks, patents and copyright: what's the difference?
Althoughtrademarks, patents and copyrightsare all used to protect certain things, there are a few differences you should know to ensure you choose the right one for what you need to protect.
Trademarks, patents and copyright
- Trademarks are primarily used for logos and symbols: things you want to be associated with your brand for its long-term reputation and longevity, and you will want to register to have this right officially.
- Patents are primarily used to protect brand new inventions: If you've created something you feel is absolutely brand new, even if it's a part of something that already exists like a part, or upgrade created by manufacturers.
- Copyrights are automatic rights which protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. You don't have to do anything to have this protection and it begins from the moment you complete the work.
How to register your UK trademark (step-by-step)
We’ve broken down the registration process into five painless steps for you to go through:
- Define your trademark
- View the trademark register
- Select your trademark classification
- Submit your application
- Address any feedback
1. Define your trademark
First, you need to determine exactly what you want to trademark.
You cancover words, sounds, logos, colours, or a combination of all.
- McDonald's has their logo trademarked, in its signature red and yellow colours, and another trademark for the slogan: “I'm lovin' it”
- Tiffany & Co. trademark its colour shade of baby blue/turquoise, and partnered with Pantone to name it: “1837 Blue,” in honour of the company's founding year.
- The sound of Homer Simpson saying “D'oh!” is a trademark owned by Twentieth Century Fox.
- As is the sound of Darth Vaders signature breathing in the Star Wars franchise.
If it's distinctive enough, you have a good chance of trademarking it. But there are also some limitations as to what your trademark cannot contain, or that you won't be covered for (either due to it being too ambiguous, unethical or potentially unfair to others).
What can a trademark NOT contain?
Your trademark cannot contain:
- Generic descriptions of the goods or services it will relate to. For example the word ‘milk’ alone cannot be a trademark for a milk manufacturer.
- Misleading or incorrect labels. For example, the word ‘vegan’ for a food item that contains animal products
- Use generic images associated with your trademark. For example, a photo of a diamond for jewellers.
- Swear words or pornographic images
- Be too similar to state symbols i.e flags or hallmarks
2. Explore the trademark register
Next, you need to check that a similar brand design does not already exist – otherwise your application will not be deemed original and will fail at the first hurdle.
Do this easily online by searching the trademark register on the gov.uk website. Look for an existing logo by either a trademark number, owner, or a keyword search.
What if my trademark already exists?
Should you find that your design has already been used, there are several options available:
- Check if it’s still in commercial use. If a trademark hasn’t been issued publicly for five years or more, or is listed as expired, then appeal to replace it with your own.
- Ask the owner to give you their mark. You’ll need a letter of consent from the owner to prove they’re happy for you to take or buy the trademark off them.
- Change your classification (if possible). Businesses that operate in a different industry are permitted to have similar trademarks.
- Edit your trademark. To avoid this scenario, it’s a good idea to have a couple of different branding options available so you don’t get stuck.
3. Select your trademark classification
Now it’s time to find your branding classification – definable as the class of goods and services that your brand will cover.
The government has designed a specialist trademark searching tool to make this step easier.
There are currently 45 classifications across a range of industries: 34 covering goods and products and 11 covering services.
Groupings range from chemical products, such as cleaning sprays (Class 1), to personal hygiene, covering things like shampoos (Class 5).
If you think your brand is applicable to several categories then you need to register in all classes your company will operate in.
If you have similar versions of your trademark, you need to make what’s called a ‘series application’ for up to six marks with the stipulation that the differences between each asset must be minor.
4. Submit your application
Having gathered all the information you need, you are ready to input the data into an online form.
Register online with the UK Intellectual Property Office to start the procedure, or send the TM3 form to apply via post.
Applicants can either click to enter your details or, if you’ve filed a trademark before, retrieve your previous details via your email address.
You’ll then be asked to enter some information about the mark you want to claim for, including design details, classification, and your examination type (Standard or Right Start).
5. Address any feedback
If there are no initial objections based on the acceptability of the trademark (the do's and don'ts we covered above), your form will then be published in the Trade Marks Journal for two months.
During this time, there is the opportunity for anyone to able to challenge your application.
There are typically two main reasons why someone might want to dispute or challenge your trademark, which we will cover in more detail below, and they are: similarity to an existing trademark, and/or a reason based on ethical morality.
Disputes due to existing trademarks
Sometimes, an existing trademark will be notified of your mark because something about it is considered similar. If the party with the existing trademark agrees that yes, they are too similar, this can block your application as they have the final say, as it were. In the event of this happening, you have a couple of options:
- You can disagree, in which case typically an impartial mediator will decide
- You can work with the existing trademark owner or make a judgement call and choose to slightly amend your trademark to a standard you feel they would be more accepting toward
- Or, you can decide on a new trademark altogether.
Similarities can be based on too similar of a colour, sound, logo in general – or too similar due to both trademarks being a specific, similar category.
The Five-Year Rules
Five years is often a significant event in the life of people who own trademarks, but for varying reasons. For example:
- If you have not used your trademark within five years, it can become at higher risk of being challenged at this time.
- If you have used a specific logo or symbol for a period of five years but for some reason forgot to officially register, you have a good chance of still being able to claim it as yours even if it has been challenged, as some kind of ‘first come first serve' solution.
There is another rare case where you will be given one final confirmation letter to confirm that this is definitely a trademark you would like to pursue, in the event that your trademark has been assessed and deemed slightly unethical or morally dubious.
While this does not mean illegal and technically you are able to try for any trademark you choose, in most cases the trademark body will ask you again if you would perhaps prefer to try for something else, or if this is in fact the trademark you are determined on securing.
They don't have to do this and don't gain anything from it, it is simply a courtesy that occurs sometimes just because, there will be the rare occasion where someone may not realise what a (potentially negative) impact the wrong trademark could have on their lives and business, or how many people may be upset or concerned.
There have been some cases where trademarks have ultimately been allowed, but are infamous by the global population for being quite morally dubious.
Anish Kapoor: Art Capitalist
Source: Anish Kapoor
One example of this is from the artist Anish Kapoor, who created and trademarked “Vantablack”, a material described as the darkest man-made colour in the world. With this trademark, he is able to charge however much he wants for his personal version of the colour black, which most artists find distasteful and an affront within the creative industry.
Martin Shkreli: Sickness Capitalist
Source: Craig Ruttle / AP
Similarly, Martin Shkreli became infamous when he acquired a drug known as Pyrimethamine, which can be crucial and life-saving to certain women who have just given birth, babies and AIDS patients – and increased the patented medicine from $13.50 to $750 overnight.
We absolutely do not condone using your trademark for any kind of potentially heinous acts because it can have unfavourable consequences on your life, business and reputation – however these examples do show the power of trademarks and how registering one can be a very powerful tool.
To this day, the idea that a person can trademark an entire medicine or colour, even if currently legal, is highly contentious.
Applications cannot be concluded until all disputes are resolved. To respond to an objection, you can either withdraw the application, defend it, or try to contact the objector directly to resolve the issue.
Once there are no more issues then, congratulations! Your trademark will be registered within two weeks of the end of the publication period.
However, it’s worth knowing that, even if you successfully register a brand design, your licence is still open to challenges if another firm attempts to register a similar logo in future.
Trademark registration costs
There are two key forms involved in the trademark filing process: a standard application form and a renewal form. Both are located on the gov.uk website.
First time application
If this is your first time registering a trademark, you’ll pay £170 for a standard trademark application done online (£200 by post).
Another option is to use the ‘Right Start’ application. This is essentially a ‘practice’ method for those who are uncertain that their submission will pass.
Using the Right Start method you’ll pay £100 initially. Then, you’ll be sent a report telling you if your application has met the rules. If it does, you’ll pay another £100 to submit your official version.
|Trademark standard application||£170 online (£200 by post)|
|Trademark 'Right Start' application||£100 upfront (+£100 upon confirmation)|
If you’re renewing an existing licence, you’ll pay £200 for a one class business, plus £50 for each additional class.
Trademarks need to be renewed every ten years.
|Trademark renewal (one class)||£200|
|Trademark renewal (per extra class)||£50|
Can you register a trademark for free?
There is no way to legitimately register a trademark for free.
If you see any third-party provider claiming to offer this service for zero charge then ignore them. Intellectual property is not an area where you should scrimp and save.
Big brands, including Apple, have paid a heavy price for not considering trademarking laws.
Skipping the process invites several risks including the seizure of your products or marketing materials. Compared to this outcome, a trademark registration is indisputably good value.
Should you pay for a third-party trademark registration service?
Most UK solicitors offer a trademarking management service for a fixed fee. Costs typically range between £600-£1,000 (+VAT) to register a trademark in one class.
If more than one class is required this can cost as much as £150 (+VAT) per additional class.
That means that on average, using a third-party registration service will cost you up to £830 more than a DIY, online approach.
We’d only recommend using a solicitor for very large companies or startups with complex intellectual property needs. For example, if you have invented a completely new product and are planning to file a patent application.
Next Steps: Using Your Trademark
The next steps you should pursue once you have registered your trademark would be these: to use it effectively, and to begin pursuing registrations internationally.
If you're looking to become the next multi-million pound brand, you will want to ensure that you have all your bases covered. And with trademarks, that simply means using what you have rightful access to, to the best of your ability in the journey of becoming a successful SME.
See our guides on other essential registration steps for new businesses:
- Registering as a sole trader
- Registering a domain name
- Registering your business with Companies House
Using the 'registered trademark' symbol
Although you don't have to use a trademark symbol, it is a good idea to enforce a trademark once the application is approved.
The ® symbol or abbreviation “RTM” will show that your mark is on a protected register and may deter someone from imitating it.
Trademark registration FAQs
- How much is it to trademark a name in the UK?
It costs £170 to submit a standard trademark application in the UK online, and £200 by post. You’ll also need to pay an extra £50 per class if you want your brand to be registered across multiple industries.
- Does a trademark need to be registered?
Registering a trademark is not a compulsory aspect of starting a business. However, if you don’t go through the official application process in the UK then your brand will not be protected from litigation or misuse.
- How long do trademarks last in the UK?
You’ll need to renew your trademark every 10 years on the gov.uk website. This can be done in either the six months before your licence expires, or the six months after.
The application process
You must send details of your trade mark and the goods or services you want to use your trade mark on to the Intellectual Property Office ( IPO ). You can send your application online or by post. The IPO will: check that your trade mark is not the same as, or similar to, any existing trade marks.
Once your application is filed with the U.K. Intellectual Property Office, file your application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (known as the 'USPTO') within six months. This will allow you to use the priority date of your UK application in the United States as well.How much does it cost to register a trademark in the UK? ›
It costs £170 to register a single trade mark in one class. It costs £50 for each additional class. If you're making a series application the first 2 versions of the trade mark are included in the fee. You then pay £50 for each additional version of your trade mark, up to a maximum total of 6.Is the UK first to file or first to use trademark? ›
The UK is a First-to-File Country
The United Kingdom grants trademark rights to the first business or individual to file a trademark application. While you may have some rights to your mark simply by using it in the UK, those common law rights are very limited and may be challenging to prove in court.
New applications. If you file an application on for a patent, a trade mark or a design at the IPO you must have an address for service in the UK, Gibraltar or the Channel Islands.Should I register a trademark as an individual or company UK? ›
As a minimum, you should consider registering your business name as a mark in the UK via the government's intellectual property office (the UK IPO). International brands may also wish to register their business name overseas. Registering with the EUIPO covers all 27 member states in the European Union, for example.Can a US citizen own a UK company? ›
Yes. It may come as a surprise, but anyone of any nationality can start a business in the UK. You don't need residential status or even to be living in the country. The only stipulation is that the company must be registered to a UK address.Can a US company do business in the UK? ›
You must register if you set up a place of business in the UK or if you usually carry out business from somewhere in the UK. Some types of company cannot register as an overseas company in the UK, including partnerships and unincorporated bodies. Contact the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) if you need advice.Can a non resident register a company in UK? ›
Yes, a non-resident can form a UK company as you are not required to be a UK resident to register a limited company with Companies House. The only thing you need to register a UK company is a UK-registered office address, which can be a friend or family member's address or a virtual office address .What is the cheapest way to trademark UK? ›
Applying online to register a trademark is the cheapest option. It costs £170 to register online for a single class, with each additional class priced at £50. Applying by post costs £200 to register for a single class, and £50 for each additional class.
Trade marks must be renewed every 10 years. You can renew a trade mark in the 6 months before it expires and up to 6 months afterwards. You cannot renew online if your trade mark expired more than 6 months ago.How long does the trademark process take UK? ›
Publish your application in the trade marks journal, providing there are no objections (2 months). If your application is not opposed, your mark will be registered 2 weeks later. The IPO will: Register your trade mark around 3 months after you apply, if it has not been objected to or opposed.Should I trademark my logo or name first? ›
If you have to start somewhere but only have the budget for one application upfront, it is generally ideal to protect your brand name first. A brand name is typically least likely to change over time, and a word mark often provides broader protection than a design mark.What is the first thing you should do before registering for a trademark? ›
- Whether the mark you want to register is registrable, and.
- How difficult it will be to protect your mark based on the strength of the mark selected.
A date of first use anywhere is the date when (1) the goods were first sold or transported, or the services were first rendered, under the mark, and (2) such use was bona fide and in the ordinary course of trade.Do UK trademarks apply internationally? ›
If you want to use your trade mark in countries other than the UK, you can apply to the trade mark office in each country. However, European and international application systems also exist. Both cover many countries and offer other potential benefits including: less to pay.Why would a trademark be refused UK? ›
If your trademark a does not have a distinctive word, logo, picture or other sign that clearly identify your goods or services from those of other traders it will be rejected.What are the benefits of having a trademark UK? ›
Registering your trade mark can help you get exclusive rights to use, licence, franchise or sell your mark. It can also help you to: prevent others from using the same or similar mark. prove your legal rights for use of the mark and allow you to use the ® symbol.Can I register a trademark without a company UK? ›
If you want to register a trademark, but you do not have a company yet, remember about one thing. The law gives you 5 years to start using a trademark. After that, the protection right to a trademark will not be taken from you, but the competitors can file for withdrawal of trademark from use.Can I use a trademarked word in my business name UK? ›
If you use a trademark that's the same as or similar to one someone else is using for products or services in the same sector, they could take legal action against you. This could leave you with a hefty legal bill, which for small or new businesses could be difficult to recover from.
Using someone's trade mark, patent, copyright or design without their permission is known as ' IP infringement' and could lead to a fine, prison or both. Read about IP crime and enforcement for more information on the penalties.Can I legally work in the UK as an American? ›
If you are a US national and would like to work in the UK, you will need to secure a work visa before you travel here. In most cases, to secure a UK work permit, you will need a suitable job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor licence granted by the UK Home Office.Can an American be self employed in the UK? ›
As the US has a social security Totalisation Agreement with the UK, as a self-employed business in the UK you will not have to pay US taxes. Whatever the net self-employment income is, it is exempt from the US self-employment tax.How to start a startup in UK? ›
- Register business name. ...
- Choose a legal structure. ...
- Write your new business plan. ...
- Secure funding and finance. ...
- Plan your advertising strategy. ...
- Buy your new business insurance. ...
- Work out what you need to do for tax. ...
- Create a system for keeping business records.
- Pick the right entity type for your business. ...
- Choose a state in which to register your company. ...
- File articles of incorporation. ...
- Obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). ...
- Open a bank account in the US.
What is an LLC? An LLC is a type of business entity available in all US states. It is a hybrid: part statutory corporation and part partnership. The UK has various forms of partnerships and companies, as does the US, but there is no direct equivalent to an LLC in the UK.Is a US LLC a company for UK tax purposes? ›
For UK tax purposes, an LLC is an opaque entity whereas for US purposes it is transparent. The implication of this mismatch is that Lyle is personally subject to US tax on the profits of the LLC as they arise, whereas for UK purposes, he would only be subject to tax as payments are distributed by the LLC to him.Does a UK company need a UK bank account? ›
UK companies do not require UK business bank accounts
Whilst it may make sense to open an account in the country in which your company is registered, it is possible to open one in your own country of residence. This requires legalising your company documents by having them 'apostilled'.
The address must be: a physical address in the UK. in the same country your company is registered in, for example a company registered in Scotland must have a registered office address in Scotland.How can a non citizen start a business in the UK? ›
- Check your legal status. ...
- Apply for a visa. ...
- Write your business plan. ...
- Choose your business structure. ...
- Decide on a company name and address. ...
- Register with HM Revenue and Customs.
Germany is the fastest country and overall champion. It takes 1-3 months, on average to register a trademark in Germany. With accelerated examination, most trademarks register within a month.Can you sell a trademark UK? ›
Since trade marks are property, you can sell or transfer them to another party as you would any other business assets. In legal terms, this is known as transfer of ownership or trade mark assignment.How do I assign a trademark in the UK? ›
Formalities for assignments
To be effective, an assignment of a UK registered trade mark (or application) must be in writing and signed by the assignor. An assignment of an EUTM registration or application must be signed by the assignor and the assignee.
Descriptiveness / lack of distinctiveness: Terms that literally describe items as they are ("tomato," "beer," "copper" or any other common word) cannot be trademarked as they must be reserved for general use. Similarly, marks that fail to indicate a particular commercial enterprise to consumers will not be registered.What happens to a trademark if it is not being used? ›
Once registered, a trademark must be used in trade in a genuinely honest manner in relation to the goods and services for which it has been registered. Failure to use the trademark can result in its cancellation and abandonment.
symbol: The TM symbol has no legal significance in the UK. This means that there is no limitation as to when it can be used; any registered or unregistered mark can be accompanied by the TM symbol.How do I get a trademark certificate UK? ›
Use form TM31R to get a certified copy of a trade mark. Certified copies cost £20 each. Fill in the form and post it. The address is on the form.How much is my trademark worth? ›
How do I know what my trademark is worth? The value of a trademark lies in the goodwill associated with that trademark. Goodwill is an intangible asset that is part of the value of the trademark owner's business. It can be quite difficult to assign a monetary value to goodwill because many variables must be considered.Is it better to trademark or LLC? ›
Is It Better to Trademark or LLC? No, it is not better. Trademarks and LLCs work together and a business needs both for complete legal protection. An LLC will help to protect your personal assets if your business is sued, while a trademark will prevent others from using your brand identity without permission.Should I get an LLC or trademark first? ›
In the end, it is best to form the LLC or business entity before filing a trademark application. It is best to work with an attorney who is licensed in your state to set up your LLC. Alternatively, you can use a trusted online filing service or other DIY resource.
The best strategy is to think about trademarks from the very beginning—ideally, when you're choosing your business name and logo and forming your business entity. Your business name can form the core of your brand, and it can also create serious trademark issues.What is the most common reason that a trademark might be rejected? ›
The most common are: Likelihood of Confusion: The USPTO conducts a search for conflicting marks as part of the official examination of an application only after a trademark application is filed.Can you trademark a name already in use but not trademarked? ›
Updated November 12, 2020: If you're wondering, "can you trademark something that already exists," the simple answer is "no." Generally speaking, if somebody has used a trademark before you, you can't register the trademark for yourself.What is the easiest way to get a trademark? ›
To register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), you will need to fill out and submit a trademark application. You can do this online, using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), an online trademark filing service, or you can submit a paper application.Is the UK trademark first to use or first to file? ›
The UK is a First-to-File Country
The United Kingdom grants trademark rights to the first business or individual to file a trademark application. While you may have some rights to your mark simply by using it in the UK, those common law rights are very limited and may be challenging to prove in court.
The owner of a trademark is the person who applies the mark to goods that they produce, or uses the mark in the sale or advertising of services that they perform.Who is first in line for trademark? ›
Trademark Priority: Determining Who Was First
Trademark rights in the US generally belong to the one who was first to use the mark in commerce. Whoever was first to sell goods or services under a particular mark will typically be deemed the rightful trademark owner. This is known as trademark priority.
You are not required to register your trademark, but where or whether you decide to register your trademark can determine the scope of your rights. Specifically, you can rely on common law rights or file for state, federal, or international trademark registration.Do I need to trademark my logo? ›
It isn't required, but to give your logo the most protection possible, it is beneficial to register your logo as a trademark with the USPTO. A common law trademark or unregistered trademark should be marked either with ™ or SM marks. The ™ mark is used for product-based trademarks.How do I file an international trademark in the UK? ›
2.2 How to apply for an international trade mark
You can find the application form MM2 or alternatively from the WIPO website. You can fill in the form on-line and email (including the form FS4 and the handling fee of £40) to email@example.com. WIPO will not accept handwritten applications.
Yes. It may come as a surprise, but anyone of any nationality can start a business in the UK. You don't need residential status or even to be living in the country. The only stipulation is that the company must be registered to a UK address.What is an unregistered trademark UK? ›
Unregistered Trademarks in the UK
An unregistered trademark, on the other hand, is not protected by a legal statute but it is still a mark used to distinguish a business or individual from others.
If you do not register your trademark, you will have legal rights only within the geographic areas where you operate. This means you may be able to stop a subsequent user of the mark, even if it is a bigger company, from using the mark in your geographic area only.Can you trademark a name without a company? ›
Normally you can't register a trademark for non-business purposes or without a business; however, if you have a business up and running and are still in the process of linking the trademark with the goods or service, you can apply your trademark under the second category and the USPTO will give you a year to gather ...Is it better to trademark a name or logo? ›
Higher value tends to lie in name recognition rather than familiarity of a logo. Since logos change more often than names, it usually makes more sense to register a standard character mark to protect the business moniker itself.Should I copyright my logo or trademark it? ›
Since trademarks are used to identify a company or brand, it makes the most sense to file for trademark protection on the brand name, logo or image. By doing this, you can keep other people from using your logo, or one that is confusingly similar, to sell the same or similar things that you are selling.What is the trademark system of UK? ›
In the UK, a trade mark registration gives the proprietor the exclusive right to use the registered trade mark on those goods or services for which it is registered. A registration also gives the owner the right to stop others from using confusingly similar marks for their goods or services.How much does it cost to register a trademark internationally? ›
An international trademark offers protection in up to 104 countries, and it is valid for 10 years. The cost of filing for an international trademark typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the country or region where you file. There is also a yearly maintenance fee of around $500.