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The importance of being earnest… in protecting your trade marks with the UKIPO

January 27, 2017, By

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) recently released its “Fast Facts 2017” booklet summarising the economic impact intellectual property rights have had, and the increased prevalence of UK businesses relying on such rights, over the last few years. The full booklet is here if you need some bedtime reading: Fast Facts 2017, but we’ve picked out some of the key facts and figures demonstrating the importance of intellectual property rights (particularly trade marks) for the UK economy and businesses.

The “Fast Facts 2017” booklet shows that, according to the UKIPO’s calculations, organisations in the UK market sector invested around £133 billion in intangible/knowledge assets in 2014; much more than the £121 billion invested in tangible assets. A staggering £70 billion worth of these intangible assets benefitted from UK intellectual property rights in 2014, a figure which is set to rise in the coming months and years.

But we think that these figures should be even higher, and would be if businesses took the appropriate steps necessary to protect their intellectual property rights at the start-up stage. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t take such steps, particularly at the start-up stage, which often results in protection being much more difficult (and sometimes, impossible) to obtain and enforce at a later stage when such rights assets are particularly important for the business.

Everybody has heard of trade marks. They are potentially some of the most valuable and longstanding assets your business is likely to have, and an intellectual property right which generates around £15 billion investment each year in the UK.

Trading names, words, stap-lines and logos are the most common types of trade marks. These marks distinguish your goods and services from those of another business. The goodwill generated by your business will usually be directly associated with your trade mark in the mind of consumers. For example, Richard Branson’s Virgin is known for providing excellent customer service, and consumers remember this when they see a good or service provided under the Virgin brand. It’s simple: trade marks have the potential to increase your revenue.

In 2015 there were 54,320 UK trade mark applications made, with 46,299 being accepted for registration. These businesses took the step of opting for broader, clearer and more easily enforceable trade mark protection. Still, many businesses continue to rely on the unregistered trade mark rights alone, and in that respect may be missing a trick. Think of unregistered trade mark rights as being the Yeti of intellectual property law, without the teeth. Their existence is very difficult to establish, and even if such rights can be shown to exist, nobody will believe you. Due to those rights being unregistered, you will need to be able to show that those rights exist, which is often an expensive, time consuming and unpredictable process. You then need to enforce those rights, which again have a notably low success rate.

Registered trade marks, on the other hand, provide you with a clearly identifiable exclusive right to use your mark, and prevent others from using marks which are confusingly similar, in respect of the goods and/or services for which it is registered. Trade mark registration initially lasts for 10 years in the UK, but can be renewed indefinitely.

More and more businesses are switching on to registered trade mark protection. It’s sometimes a confusing area, so let us know if you need help – it’s what we’re here for! We offer free consultations and, work on a fixed fee basis, in respect of trade mark filings. If you’d like to know more, give us a call on 020 7288 6003.

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