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At its most basic, that is the basis for brand. Clearly, there is more to branding than described above, such as the emotion evoked in a consumer by a brand and the positioning of a brand to attract certain consumers for certain reasons.

However, underlying much of the value of the brand is the recognition of a Trade Mark by a consumer, the reputation associated with that mark and the association of that mark as a source.

For these reasons, it is critical to the success of a brand that the Trade Mark is properly protected.

To act as a TM and to be defended, a mark does not have to be registered. However, as with other forms of IP, the protection available is much stronger for registered marks.

Protection of a trade mark does not simply involve registration, however. You could consider trade mark protection as involving not only actively seeking trade mark registrations, but also ensuring that the quality of goods being developed and shipped under the mark are of a sufficient quality or of a standard and reputation appropriate to the positioning of the brand inferred by the mark and that any licensees are producing products that are consistent with the reputation of the mark. The last element is best dealt with by relationships and contracts with commercial customers and with distributors and the management of them. The in-house activities are best managed by having a process for ensuring that goods are of a certain quality and through relationships and contracts with manufacturers.

As with other forms of registered right, Trade Marks have territorial effect. As with designs, however, there is also a Community Trade Mark system which enables a single TM to have effect across the entire European Union.

Registered Trade Mark facts


Signs used in the course of trade, which are capable of being represented, are not descriptive of the goods and which have distinctive character


Without permission, or a license from the trade mark owner, no person or company can use the mark (or a similar mark) on the specified goods in the territory of the registration.


Indefinite, subject to renewal every ten years.


Low-Medium.  For a single word mark, the lifetime cost in the UK, say over 25y, could be £2500. For international trade, it can get expensive to register the TM in many different countries.

Trade Mark registrations allow the owner to use a mark on the goods for which it is registered.

The mark can be any sign that is capable of graphical representation. This is typically embodied by a word, a stylised word or a logo. Shapes of articles have been registered as trade marks (e.g. a coca-cola bottle) as have colours, sounds and smells.

To be registerable, a trade mark must not be descriptive of the goods to which it is to be applied (neither should it be deceptive nor lauditory), and it must be distinctive. It also must not be identical or similar to an earlier registered mark of another for the same goods.

A registered trade mark owner can prevent unlicensed third parties from using a mark identical to or similar to the registered mark on identical goods or, if the mark has a certain reputation and there would be confusion among the public, similar goods. It can also prevent the unauthorised use of an identical or similar mark on different goods if the registered mark is of sufficient repute and the use of that mark takes unfair advantage or is detrimental to the reputation of the mark.

Most trade mark owners would rely on the first incidents of use for establishing infringements.  The latter type of infringement applies particularly to more famous marks, where third parties might be trying to seek a benefit from the reputation in a non-competing sector of business.

If an unauthorised third party blatantly tries to take advantage of your reputation by using an identical or similar mark for the same goods in order to gain a benefit in your market, it is possible that upon request a court would award an interim injunction to prevent further damage to your business until the issue is resolved. Trade mark owners also have a right, unrelated to TM registration, under common law called Passing Off, which enables the trade mark owner to take action against third parties from passing off their goods as yours.

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