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What Are the Restricted Signs to Avoid When Registering a Trade Mark?

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If you are a business that is considering registering your trade mark, you will need to be aware of what signs to avoid. Given the time and cost involved in trade mark registration, you should ensure that your trade mark design meets all the requirements of the Intellectual Property Office. In this article, we will discuss the different guidelines for registration applications, specifically focusing on the restricted signs you must avoid.

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What is a Trade Mark?

A trade mark is a mark that helps consumers identify your business’ goods or services. In this sense, a trade mark is a valuable tool to: 

  • market your business; 
  • build a strong brand; and 
  • use as a guarantee of quality on your product or service that you offer. 

The most effective way of protecting your trade mark is registering it. Trade mark registration gives you the exclusive right to use your trade mark in relation to your goods and services. This means that competitors cannot use your trade mark without your consent.

How Can Businesses Register Trade Marks?

Once you have decided to apply for registration, you need to be aware of the various requirements. A trade mark must be a word, logo, symbol, slogan, or sound that is distinctive in character. However, it must not be:

  • a recognised national flag; 
  • too descriptive, such as the word ‘cotton’ for a cotton-based business;
  • non-distinctive or common wording, such as the phrase ‘we are first’;
  • official emblems or hallmarks;
  • misleading, such as saying something is low in sugar when it is not; 
  • a generic shape associated with your business, such as an egg shape; or
  • offensive in nature.
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How To Ensure Your Trade Mark’s Application is Successful

1. Avoid Restricted Signs

In order to maximise the chances of registering your trade mark, you should ensure that you design your mark in a way that does not include any of the above requirements. If you feel your trade mark design could contain a restricted sign, you should:

  • consider re-designing your mark; and 
  • seek an intellectual property lawyer to inspect your design and provide advice on how to amend it.

In saying that, your trade mark can include any number of things, including words, colours, logos etc. This allows you to be as creative as possible, which also assists in creating a mark that is unique and distinctive for your business.

2. Conduct a Trade Mark Search

If another business has registered the same or similar trade mark as your own, your application is unlikely to be successful. After all, you will need to ensure your mark is not going to risk infringing another business’ intellectual property rights. Therefore, it is important that you conduct a trade mark search before applying to register your trade mark. 

Carrying out a search of the database will also show you any marks that appear to be similar to yours. Even if they are not similar enough to pose a problem with your registration, you need to ensure your trade mark will not get mixed up with another business. Trade mark registration lasts for ten years, and therefore it needs to be something unique and able to reflect your business and its products or services for that period of time.

Key Takeaways

Trade mark applications must be completed with care and attention as there are a number of important requirements that you must adhere to. Most importantly, there are a number of things you must avoid as otherwise your application will be refused. Restricted signs include:

  • misleading terms or phrases;
  • protected emblems or symbols;
  • descriptive terms;
  • generic shapes; and
  • offensive terms or images.

By avoiding the above, you will be increasing your chances of successfully registering your trade mark.  

If you need help or advice around trade mark applications, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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