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How to register a trademark in 3 simple steps

5-minute read

Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

24 August 2023

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You’re probably familiar with what a trademark is – a way of protecting the intellectual property (IP) of your business. Making sure the unique aspects of your business aren’t being copied by your competitors.

The process of registering a trademark can be complex for anyone who hasn’t done it before. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ll break down the application process into three simple steps as well as these other topics:

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a way of legally protecting a product or service that’s unique to your business. It helps you distinguish what your business offers in comparison to others in your industry, while also stopping it from being copied or stolen.

You can trademark a variety of things in your business, for example:

  • your logo
  • brand colours
  • company slogans
  • unique sounds or jingles

There are slightly different rules depending on what you’re choosing to trademark, and we’ll go into more detail on that later on. You can find more information in our guide to intellectual property as well as details on the differences between copyright, patents, and trademarks.

Why register a trademark?

When you’re starting out a new business, registering a trademark on your IP might be high on your to-do list.

The typical reason to trademark something in your business is to protect it from being copied or stolen. While a trademark can’t physically stop someone from stealing your ideas, it gives you the ability to take legal action against somebody who does.

The threat of legal action is usually enough to stop people from copying your business but in the cases when it doesn’t, you’ll need to respond. The government site has a detailed breakdown of how to make a claim about stolen IP.

More broadly, trademarking aspects of your business will help build your brand identity. When you think about huge brands like McDonalds or Disney, they have logos, ideas, colours, and sounds that are all unique to them. This wouldn’t be possible without trademarking.

Once you have the trademark, you can put the ® symbol next to the trademarked asset to show that it’s protected.

How do you register a trademark? 3 simple steps

1. Decide your trademark

You need to decide what you’d like to trademark. You can trademark logos, colours, words, sounds, or a combination of them all.

If it’s distinctive enough, there shouldn’t be a problem getting something trademarked. The main stumbling block at this stage is trying to trademark something that someone else has already claimed. Check the trademark register to make sure there’s isn't a clash with existing trademarks.

There’s also a chance you’re trying to trademark something that can’t be. We’ll cover things you can’t trademark in your business later in the article.

2. Select your classification

You’ll then need to select a category for your trademark. This helps define whether you’re trademarking a product or a service and what industry it’s in. The government has made a classification checker that makes this process simple.

If you feel your product or service spans more than one of these categories, you should select all that apply.

3. Submit your trademark

Once you’ve decided on the aspects above, you’re ready to submit your trademark. You can register online with the UK Intellectual Property Office or you can fill out a TM3 form and send it by post.

You’ll need to enter information about your business like the name and address as well as the details mentioned above, including the design details and classification. It’ll then be sent to the Trade Marks Journal for two months. During this time, anyone can dispute your trademark.

What are trademark disputes?

Whenever you try to register a trademark, it can be disputed by someone else. There are two reasons someone will challenge your trademark – they think it’s like their own intellectual property or they think it’s unethical.

If your trademark is flagged as similar to another, the holder of the existing trademark will be notified and they can choose to block your application. If your trademark is blocked, you can:

  • withdraw your application and submit a new trademark
  • work with the existing trademark holder to find an agreement they’re happy with. Amending a design so it looks less similar, for example
  • disagree with their challenge and let a mediator decide whether the challenge is correct

Claims that your trademark is unethical, while less common, are also important to be aware of. You could have a slogan about sustainability that says, ‘the best small business for the planet’, for example. If you tried to trademark it, it could be contested as unethical because it’s a potentially false claim, and isn’t a title that can be owned by one business.

Your application can’t be completed until all challenges against it have been resolved. Once they have, your application will be complete and your trademark will be registered.

Having a trademark is an ongoing process that means you’ll always interact with it in some way. You may have more challenges against your trademark in the future and you might contest ones that are like yours.

How long does it take to register a trademark?

Because the length of the feedback process can vary depending on whether or not you’re challenged, all of these timings are estimates. But this is roughly how long it takes to register a trademark:

  • after submission, your application will be reviewed within two weeks
  • then your application will go to the Trade Marks Journal for two months, and if it’s uncontested, will be registered two weeks later

It takes around three months in total to fully register your trademark. You’ll be sent a certificate to confirm the trademark, which lasts for 10 years until it needs to be renewed.

How much does it cost to register a trademark?

There isn’t a way to register a trademark for free. The standard fee for a first-time application is £170 (£200 by post) and it’s paid at the beginning of the process. But there’s another way of applying that might be worth considering.

A ‘right start’ application costs £200 but offers you the chance to get feedback before going through the entire process. You pay £100 up front and the trademark is assessed like a standard application.

The difference is that you’re sent feedback once it’s been reviewed and can then decide whether you’d like to go forward with the registration. If you decide to continue, you’ll need to pay another £100 to complete the application. But if you don’t, you won’t have to pay the extra £100.

This is useful if you think the trademark you’re applying for is going to be competitive. With the standard process, you could spend the £170 upfront but be unable to register because it’s too similar to another trademark. Another extra cost to consider is if you choose more than one class for your trademark as it’ll cost £50 for each additional class.

Once you’re registered, a trademark lasts for 10 years before you’ll need to renew for £200.

Sometimes a trademark isn’t enough to stop someone from stealing your IP. In cases where taking legal action is required, having the right business legal insurance could be important.

When a steady cash flow is important for a business, unexpected legal fees can cause unnecessary problems. Having an insurance policy that covers these legal fees can put your mind at ease.

Have you registered a trademark in your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

<span style='font-size: undefined;'>Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with seven years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. With a keen interest in issues affecting the hospitality and construction sector, Zach focuses on news relevant to small business owners. Covering industry updates, regulatory changes, and practical guides. </span>

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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