Guide

Trade marks

Selecting a strong trade mark

Choosing a mark that will function as a trade mark is extremely important for any business. While there are no fixed rules on what makes a successful trade mark, here are some things which you will need to consider to make sure you choose a good mark.

What makes a strong trade mark?

  • Make sure that your mark meets the requirements for registration. It has to be unique and sufficiently distinctive for the category of goods and services you wish to use it for, in order to meet the registration criteria. See what is a trade mark.

  • Think about how your mark will be perceived not only in your domestic market, but in overseas markets also. This is essential if you export or plan to export your goods and services abroad. Find out how to register a trade mark outside the UK.

  • Consider which class or classes you wish to protect your goods and services in. The UK trade mark classification system is divided between classes 1 to 34 (goods) and classes 35 to 45 (services). You can register a trade mark under multiple classes. See how to classify trade marks.

  • Avoid generic, descriptive and suggestive marks and choose memorable and distinctive words. For example, arbitrary marks (such as Apple for a computer) and coined words (such as Google) are more likely to be considered distinct. The stronger and more distinctive the mark is, the easier it can be to register and protect it.

  • Carry out a detailed trade mark search. This will help you determine if the mark you intend to use is available in the UK or in other markets. If you come across a mark that has expired or does not appear to be in use, you will want to proceed with caution – it is possible to restore marks in certain circumstances. See how to search for trade marks.

  • If you find a same or similar mark already in use, you may want to consider licensing or acquisition. In some cases, you may be able to file for revocation, cancellation or invalidation of an earlier mark. Read about objecting to and challenging trade marks.

  • Also consider if you need to set up a website or social media presence for your new mark. Trade mark registration doesn't automatically give you the right to a matching business name or domain name. These are separate assets and you may need to buy or manage them separately. Read about domain name and trade mark conflicts.

  • Seek advice early. Invest Northern Ireland's (NI) business advisers can help suggest ways of protecting your trade mark. They can also assist you with trade mark search, registration and developing a trade mark strategy. Get IP support from Invest NI.

If in doubt, you may wish to seek advice from a chartered trade mark attorney.

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