​Trademarks: The Basics

​Trademarks: The Basics

What are trademarks, how do they work and what do they do?

By Emma Meakin

Trademarks are a form of intellectual property right for your commercial exploitation and they act as commercial protection.

What is a trademark?

A trademark in its simplest form is a graphically representation or sign that enables you to identify goods or services belonging to a company.

For example, the Coca Cola logo is a trademark belonging to Coca Cola. We all know it instantly from looking at a can or a bottle that the company owns it, and that it’s going to taste a certain way. It helps us identify one company’s goods form another, and forms a key part of its corporate identity.

The Trade Marks Act 1994 sets out the law behind trademarks and can be found on the government legislation website.

How does a trademark work?

A trademark works as your calling card. It lets the world know that the product or achievement is yours. You can alert others that the mark is a trademark by adding the following symbols:

To be a valid, the mark it must be registered - anyone in the UK can register one. Registration takes place via an application to the Trade Mark Registry. There are numerous hurdles for the mark to overcome prior to registration, and it must be registered with relation to the goods or services it’s relevant to.

In total, there are 45 classes so make sure you find the best one for your mark.

Once registered, your trademark gives you the exclusive rights to the use of the sign. No one can use this without your permission. The trademark becomes an asset of the company that you can commercially exploit. It can be a money-making asset if you allow others to use it for a price, for example.

For more information on the registration process, please see our article Trademark Registration is Vital.

Where can you find existing trademarks?

The Trade Mark Register and Trade Mark Journal contain UK marks. The Trade Mark Register allows you to search marks via name, registration number, owner, and keyword or phrase. The Journal publishes all new application marks, while you can see what marks have been applied for in previous editions.

Trademarks are key business assets, which not only allow protection of the company’s name and logo, but also the goodwill associated with the two. It is, therefore, vital that you take steps to protect your trademark via registration. Further information about registration is available online, alternatively look at the Legal section of our Knowledge Hub.

How do I value trademark, logo and IP?

It’s difficult to place a value on the trademark, logo and intellectual property of your business for two reasons. Firstly, these are intangible assets that don’t have a concrete value, in the same way that say a business premises has. Secondly, these assets only have value as a collective part of your business as a going concern; they’ve no value as standalone assets, as they’re no real use to anyone.

As with any asset, trademarks, logo and intellectual property are worth as much as someone is willing to pay for them. The best way to put any sort of value on them would be to find out how much similar businesses in your sector have sold for, and roughly assign a percentage value to each of these elements.