Creating a logo is an important part of starting a business. It’s the first thing everyone sees when they find you, and gives you and your employees a symbol to rally behind, 

But before presenting your fancy new business logo to the world, you need to register it as an official trademark. So let’s talk about trademarks. 

Specifically we’ll be answering these questions:

  • What is a trademark?
  • What can be trademarked?
  • How do I register a trademark?
  • How much does it cost to register a trademark?
  • What if a similar logo already exists?

What is a trademark?

Registering a trademark protects intellectual property under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. This prevents anybody else from trying to use the same, or very similar, design. 

If someone else does try to use the same design, a registered trademark will give you the legal authority to make them stop. The trademark will last for 10 years, after which you’ll have to renew it. 

You can also sell, market, license, and mortgage your trademark to other parties. Registered trademarks usually only protect your intellectual property in the country that they’re registered. 

What can be trademarked?

You can register any of these for trademark:

  • words
  • sounds
  • logos
  • colours
  • a combination of any of these

Your logo can’t be trademarked if it:

  • is offensive – for example, swear words or indecent images.
  • describes the thing it relates to – for example, you can’t trademark the word ‘software’ for your software company.
  • is misleading or deceptive – for example, you can’t use the word ‘sustainable’ in the logo for a non-sustainable product.
  • is a 3-D shape.
  • is too common and non-distinctive.
  • looks too similar to state symbols – for example, flags of countries or international organisations. 

How do I register a trademark?

First, you need to make sure it’s unique. You can search registered trademarks on the HMRC website to make sure it’s not already being used. 

Once you’re sure it’s original, you can apply to register a trademark with HMRC. You’ll need the details of what you’d like to register, like your logo, and the trade mark classes you want to register.

Every good or service is given a number class from 1-45. Goods are in classes 1-34, while services are in classes 35-45. 

Each number class includes a list of items, and the same items might appear in different classes depending on how they’re used. For example, class 1 covers alcohol in chemicals, while class 33 covers alcoholic drinks. 

You can use the HMRC class search tool to see what classes you need to cover. After applying, you should get feedback after about 8 weeks, 

Series application

If you have several logos that are all similar, you can register up to 6 at one time with a series application.

If you do, all your logos should:

  • look the same
  • sound the same
  • mean the same
  • have only minor differences

According to HMRC, about 40% of series applications are unsuccessful because they don’t meet the requirements. So you should read their guide if you’re considering it. 

If you do submit several designs in a series application, you will be charged and extra £50 per design.

How much does it cost to register a trademark?

The cost of registering a trademark depends on the number of classes your trademark falls into, as well as how you’ll be applying. 

Applying online

For a standard application, it costs £170, plus an additional £50 for each other class covered by your trademark. 

Right start service

You can use the ‘Right Start’ service to make sure your application meets all the rules before you try to register. It costs £100 up front, plus an additional £50 for each other class. 

After that you’ll get a report telling you whether or not your application is okay, and you pay another £100 to submit it. If you do, you have to pay within 28 days of getting the report.

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You can still choose to continue your application even if it doesn’t meet the rules for registration, but it’s probably not a great idea. 

Applying by post

Applying by post will cost £200, plus an additional £50 for each other class. You need to download and print out application forms from the HMRC website. 

What if a similar logo already exists?

Your trademark could be opposed if a similar one already exists.

If you’re aware of a similar logo, you can ask the holder of the original trademark for a letter of consent. If they agree, you need to include the letter along with your application. 

Without the letter of consent, the intellectual property office (IPO) will contact the original trademark holder to let them know. 

If your application is opposed and you don’t have a letter of consent, you can either withdraw your application, or defend it. You might have to pay legal costs if you want to challenge the opposition, and you can’t register your trademark until it’s settled. 

Keep track of your finances with a simple app

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate from day one. To save time and automate accounting admin, thousands of entrepreneurs across the UK use the Countingup app. 

The two-in-one business current account has free built-in accounting software that automates the time-consuming aspects of bookkeeping, and can save you hours of financial calculations and filing time. You can also share your financial records with an accountant directly through the app, making it simple to manage your accounting.

Find out more here about how you can make your finances simple with your accountant and the Countingup app.

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