What is a trademark?
A trademark is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as being ‘a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises’.
This means that businesses are able to register signs which are legally protected from other businesses. A sign can include items such as words/slogans, images, logos, and many other distinctive or recognisable characteristics such as specific colour schemes.
Trademarks must be registered in individual legal jurisdictions (usually countries), with their respective trademark body. Most jurisdictions offer a trademark period of 10 years.
In the UK, the trademark body responsible is the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). All applications are assessed by the IPO. An EU-wide scheme is also available, regulated by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Registration with the EUIPO covers all EU member states.
How are trademarks identified?
You may have noticed two small symbols associated with common brands:
TM refers to a sign which has been used by a business in a similar manner to a registered trademark, but has not applied for a trademark. However, it indicates to other businesses that action may be taken if other businesses also use the sign.
® refers to a sign that has been registered with at least one trademark body (e.g. UK IPO, EUEIPO etc.). The TM symbol may also be used when in the process of applying for the trademark.
Do I need to register for a trademark?
Registering for a trademark has many benefits, including:
- Exclusive usage rights
A trademark is a legally protected sign – other businesses are not able to use any signs that are substantially similar in nature. The protection lasts for 10 years in most jurisdictions, and can be renewed.
- Protection against infringement
In the case that another business does use a substantially similar sign, the trademark holder is entitled to pursue legal action, and stop the other business from using the sign. In addition, the trademark holder can also sue to obtain any profits made from using the sign.
- Enhanced credibility towards customers
A trademark can be considered a valuable business asset, as many customers consider brand image/recognition a key factor when it comes to making purchase decisions. The same is true for investors – many consider the brand image an important consideration when assessing the potential value of a business.
- Exclusive benefits when selling on Amazon
Amazon operates a programme called the Amazon Brand Registry.
This programme allows Amazon sellers to establish a webstore. Sellers can create an Amazon webpage with a unique and professional layout, incorporating design elements such as dynamic images and well-structured text. This effectively allows Amazon sellers to create a distinctive brand within the Amazon platform, even if they do not operate their own website.
In contrast, if a seller is not registered on the Amazon Brand Registry, they will only be able to include basic text in product descriptions. Their seller storefront will only display a basic list of items on sale.
By registering for the programme, sellers are also able to easily file complaints against trademark infringements by other sellers. Amazon will take action against other sellers by suspending any infringing product listings.