How does the Intellectual Property Office relate to your business? Well, it can help you protect it – namely protect your business name and image from theft.
Copyright law is one thing, it’s ‘automatic’ with no need to register it, and offers you a certain measure of ownership to your company name and logo design/company identity, but it’s not quite as firm and definite as an official ‘trademark’, and this is what the Intellectual Property Office can offer you.
I’ll go into a bit more detail:
firstly, what is ‘copyright’?
In the UK Copyright is automatic for fixed works (does not cover ‘ideas’), and this includes photographs, audio recordings of books, paintings and other artwork, writing and more. A business or individual does not need to apply for copyright – it is automatically applied to anything they create.
Examples of works covered automatically by copyright include novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, lyrics, dramatic works, drawings, logos, layouts, broadcasts and more.
It is illegal to copy or use work protected by copyright without the owner’s permission.
Thus if you are a company with a logo design, it’s safe to a large extent in that it’s automatically copyrighted and you simply need to ensure that whoever created the logo for you, is passing on full copyright ownership to yourself and this is stated in their terms and conditions (of hiring them) or that you are provided with a copyright assignment document for your design.
If someone were to attempt to ‘copy’ or use your logo design, you would simply need to advise them of their illegality and tell them to cease their activity. If they refuse (rare), you are then in the position of deciding whether to take this to a court, and to win your case you need to prove you are the copyright owner to this design.
When you have registered the trademark to your design, you’ve already proved it, and this is where the difference lies.
what is a ‘trademark’?
A trade mark is a sign which distinguishes your goods and/or services from those of your competitors and is original to your business. It can be words, icons/graphics, or a combination of both … as is common with logo designs.
Thus any logo design, if original can be defined as a trademark. As an owner of a trade mark, you have the right to put a little TM symbol next to your logo to make it clear that the image is a trade mark, and of course the logo is always automatically covered by copyright law.
If you feel reasonably confident that your trade mark IS original from your competitors, you can apply to the Intellectual Property Office to trade mark it. If your application is accepted you will have the right to place a little R in a circle next to your logo design, and this broadcasts the fact that your trademark has been registered.
Many business owners use a trademark lawyer to register their trademark for them, however if you feel it is unlikely you will be ‘challenged’ (another firm challenges your application by citing that their own mark is the same/too similar), it is simple, and relatively low cost to make the application yourself and you can even do this online.
Below are links to further reading and where to apply:
Benefits of Registering your Trademark
Professional Advice on Trademarking
Applying for a Trademark
How Much Does It Cost?
Trademark Application Forms & Fees