What are trademarks?

Trademarks are a means for one party to distinguish its product or services from another. They can take many forms including names, words, signs, colours, slogans, logos or shapes.

Trademarks are registered for specific goods or services within individual subjects, known as classes.

When you register your trademark, you will be able to:

  • sell and license your brand
  • take legal action against anyone using your brand without permission, including counterfeiters; and,
  • put the ®symbol next to your brand, warning others against using it.

Currently, how many types of registered trademark are available in the UK?

  1.  UK national trademark;
  2. EU trademark; and,
  3. International Registration designating the UK / EU.

 UK national trademark

A UK national trademark is made by applying to the UK Intellectual Property Office If granted, the trademark registration will last for an initial period of ten years, subject to renewal indefinitely for periods of ten years each.

Existing UK registered trademarks will remain in force following the country’s separation with the EU. Under the UK’s EU Withdrawal Bill (still going through Parliament), EU law will become part of the text of UK law. This means there should be very little change to the substantive law relating to UK national trademark registrations.

EU trademark

 Since April 1996, brand owners have been able to register their mark as a European Union mark by applying to the EU Intellectual Property Office, obtaining protection throughout the trading bloc.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement published by the EU in March 2018 seeks to reassure holders of existing EU intellectual property rights that these will be maintained during the transition period, until 31 December 2020.

However, after this period, whilst the EU envisages there to be no loss of protection, there is no firm guidance in place describing precisely how this will be implemented. It is also not clear who will bear the cost of EU trademarks being entered onto the UK register.

International Registrations

 An application for international registrations can be made using the Madrid Protocol and filed with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Office (‘WIPO’). This application system allows a UK trademark application or registration to form the basis of an application for an international registration, allowing you to select which countries you wish to obtain protection in.

As the fundamental of this form of intellectual property is a supra-national treaty, the validity of these trademarks should not be affected by Brexit. However, UK companies without a presence in Europe will no longer be able to file an international trademark with EU designation (EUTM) as their home mark in an application for international registration.

In summary, there are numerous issues still to be determined in respect of the future. For example, it remains unclear what could happen to pending EU trademark applications after the transition period.

What is clear is anyone wishing to apply for a trademark should do so now, whilst the law, fees and process are established, in any event before the end of the transitional period. If you need advice on any aspect of protecting your brand, please contact LF Legal on 0203 146 3549 / info@lflegal.co.uk

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