Guest post by Rebecca Lee
When you buy a trademark, you buy the exclusive right to own a brand element of a registered good or service.
This doesn’t just cover the names or logos of the brand. They can also encompass things like certain sounds, slogans, smells, pictures, and colours.
Buying a trademark is a form of intellectual property protection. It can be a very valuable asset for your business, but it can also be bought and sold like any other piece of property.
However, the process of buying a trademark can be complicated and can’t merely be simplified to just shopping for one online. There are a few things you should know and have ready before you start.
Here’s what you need to know before you buy a trademark in the United Kingdom.
Before you go through the long but necessary process of buying a trademark, it’s important to determine whether or not you’re eligible for one.
Here are the requirements an owner must fulfil to be eligible for a trademark:
- Identity: the owner must be a person, company, or corporation.
- Address: should have a verified address in the UK
- Entity: should not be a business or trading name
- Ownership: owns the authority of the business they’re registering. For corporations, should not be the director’s name but the corporation’s.
Moreover, there are certain prohibitions the Intellectual Property Office enforces that citizens should be aware of as well, such as:
- Offensive material
- Exact copy of word the product is related to (i.g. “Guitar” for a guitar company)
- National flags
- Official emblems and coat of arms
- Generic and common phrasing
- Misleading material
Types of Trademarks
In the UK, there are 45 classes—34 classes of goods and 11 for services—that help categorise goods and services into a set of classifications.
Some of these distinct classes include:
- Chemical products
- Electronic devices
- Toys & sporting goods
- Advertising services
- Personal and social services
Depending on your business and what you want to protect, you’ll need to pick any of the above trademarks to apply for.
You can get a more comprehensive guide about what these different types of trademarks entail on this article published by the UK Intellectual Property Office.
How to Buy Trademarks
The good thing about trademarks is that they can also be exchanged or sold like any other physical or intangible asset. This means you won’t have to go through all the tedious hoops of application and registration if you’re looking to buy an existing one.
If you want to buy a registered trademark, the process is quite simple. Listed below are the steps a prospecting trademark owner must take to own one.
- Search through a registry found in the official UK government website to seek the trademark(s) you want to buy, their owners, and their respective contact details.
- Contact the owner using the provided information and inquire about purchasing the trademark.
- Once both parties have agreed to negotiate, the change in ownership must be properly reflected. The current owner and buyer must agree and sign the terms of a contract called the ‘Application to record a change of ownership’ form as a record of this mutual exchange.
- Fill the form, send it by post or online, and pay a fixed price of £50 for it to undergo processing.
- As soon as this exchange is accepted, the owner turns over exclusive rights to you, effectively selling the trademark.
Oftentimes, you’ll encounter different situations when trying to negotiate for a trademark: the owner happily sells it to you, the owner is willing to negotiate a price, or the owner isn’t interested in selling.
While there’s no fixed price for trademarks, the value of the trademark is usually hinged on the brand’s goodwill.
One way you can make the process smoother is by buying a trademark with Trademark Registration. This way, you’ll have an experienced professional ready to help you with the entire process from start to finish.
Misconceptions about Trademarks
There are a few key misconceptions when it comes to trademarks that you should be aware of before buying one.
Age of trademarks
Firstly, some people believe that trademarks are lifelong. This isn’t true; you’ll need to re-file for it again after 10 years. Typically, most businesses start to renew their trademark anywhere between 6 months to a year before the expiry date. Any longer than that could leave you with a surcharge and the risk of having someone else snag your trademark.
You can’t trademark designs
Secondly, many things can constitute what a trademark is—but a product’s design isn’t one of them. Visual elements that pertain to the shape, pattern, configuration, or ornamentation of a product would usually not be able to be trademarked. So while you can trademark a product’s logo, you can’t trademark stylistic features of a coffee table, for instance.
Trademarks must be used
Lastly, the registered trademark must be actively used. If you don’t use it for a period of three years, other vying applicants may apply for non-use. However, when this happens, you’ll usually be informed by the trademark provider about this claim and be able to defend your rights accordingly.