The most obvious way of using your trade mark is in the marketing of the product, service or business to which it applies.
However, since a trade mark is a kind of intellectual property (IP), it may have intrinsic value in much the same way as other property. You can exploit this value for the benefit of your business by:
- licensing your trade mark
- mortgaging it
- transferring ownership of it
- enforcing it
Licensing trade marks
A licence gives someone the permission to use a trade mark belonging to someone else. The terms of the licence, such as the amount paid, the period that it is in force, the business sectors or products to which it can be applied etc. are all negotiated between the trade mark owner and the licensee. The terms should be incorporated in a written contract.
When a licence has been agreed, either the trade mark owner or the licensee must notify the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The IPO must also be told once the licence agreement ends, or if any of the details change.
Mortgaging a trade mark
As with other forms of valuable property, you can use your trade mark as security for a loan. The lender retains a legal right in your trade mark until you repay the loan, but you can continue to use the mark in the meantime.
In the UK, you should register the mortgage with the IPO, so that it can be recorded. When the loan has been repaid, the details are removed from the register.
Buying, selling or inheriting a trade mark
You may want to transfer ownership, eg buy a trade mark from another business, or sell one. For example, if a business has a trade mark it isn't using that would be suitable for your product, you could negotiate with the owner to buy it. You might also inherit a trade mark, or you might buy or merge with a business which owns one or more trade marks.
If you become the new owner of a trade mark, you must register it with the IPO.
For more information, see GOV.UK's forms and guidance on licensing, mortgaging and changing ownership of your trade mark.
Marketing your trade mark
You can get other businesses - eg dealers, agents or suppliers - involved in helping to exploit or market your trade mark. This will be particularly helpful if the trade mark is associated with a new product for which there is likely to be widespread demand.
You may find it helpful to talk to Invest Northern Ireland' intellectual property advisers for advice on protecting your ideas. You can call the Invest NI Helpline on Tel 0800 181 4422 or read here about Invest NI's intellectual property support.