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Protecting your brand

Have you protected your brand name?

It’s something which might get overlooked, but don’t be caught out. Here are just some reasons why your brand name needs protection:

  • customers have loyalty to brands
  • Brands gain value over time, and they give a springboard from which to launch other products
  • Brands can be sold, like MG Cars, Norton Bikes
  • It can be a source of income

And this is done by the old ‘Patent Office’, which, after 154 years, is now known as the Intellectual Property Office.

A talk by Gary Townley from IPO at Pennine Lancashire shed some great insights into this world of trademarks and suchlike, which I thought I might share with you:


The name you use to sell services/products – whether you’ve registered it or not – is your trademark.

It needs to distinguish you from your competitors – but can’t be something like ‘Blackburn web design’, because that’s a location and a description of what it does.

If you can tell what you do by your brand, then it can’t be registered. for example, ‘Mars’ tells you nothing about chocolate. A dictionary word is fine too, as long as it’s got nothing to do with your industry. So ‘Apple’ for a grocers wouldn’t be allowed, but ‘Apple’ for  company manufacturing MP3s and computers… no problem

You can register all sorts of things…. name, domain name, colour, music (think Intel; Direct Line), a logo, slogan (‘I’m lovin’ it), shape (CocaCola bottle; Toberlone), or something non-traditional, like someone patting their back pocket twice…

If you register a trademark, you register for a type of business. There are 45 different types. And there are 3/4 million names on the register.

Trademarks Do’s

  • Try to make it 4-8 letters long
  • Make sure it’s got no meaning somewhere else
  • Made up names are the best  (like ‘Kodak’)
  • You can do your own research on line at IPO website  – which covers UK and Europe

Trademark Don’ts

  • No geographical names
  • Don’t use something which bigs your name up
  • Don’t use restrictive names – try to pick something which could move sectors/products

At the time of writing, it costs £170 to register a name and a further £170 to register a logo.

Registered design

Unsurprisingly, this is what an item looks like, whether it is crockery, fashion items, phones, mp3 players – and it has a value – so you could register it.

For example, do you know who owns the knitted character, Monkey, now promoting PG Tips? It used to be ITV Digital, but now is owned by charity Comic Relief.


Patents protect functionality – what it does, how it does it.

The most important thing to know about patents, really important, is that the idea/product can’t be shown ANYWHERE prior to filing. The criteria for consideration is that it must be new and not known to anywhere in the world prior to the filing date.

Amazingly, the IPO receives 20,000 applications a year, and about 8,000 are granted.


Unlike the others mentioned, copyright is fairly international. It exists as soon as something is created. It’s automatic. Covering a whole raft of creativity, it includes music, plays, photos, novels etc. And its worth a lot of money. Coming in a No 4 in the Top Dead Earners chart in 2009 was Elvis Presley at a staggering $55 million.

So who owns copyright?

The creator or author owns the copyright… or their employer (if something is produced in the course of their work). A contractor will retain ownership unless their contract specifies otherwise.

And the copyright of this piece, and all the other copy on this website… belongs to me.

If this blog has raised any queries, the IPO website has some great information – sign up for their newsletter, do an audit on-line (IP Healthcheck) or phone their call-centre. And there is a fascinating video clip on the BBC website celebrating 21st Century inventors Good luck!

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