Do you need to trademark a business name?

The name that a business uses is likely to be one of its most important items of intellectual property bringing with it the potential to differentiate its goods or services and so help build customer loyalty.

This article will look at how a company can protect the use of its business name – and the reasons why it is important to do so.

What is the best way to protect a business name?

The most effective way an organisation can protect its name is to register it as a trademark. This will provide it with protection under the Trade Marks Act 1994  and give it the right to:

  • Use the ® symbol as a deterrent against intellectual property theft
  • Take legal action against unauthorised use of the trademark in the same commercial space
  • License the use of the name to other companies

Is it compulsory to trademark a business name?

There is no obligation under UK law for a company to formally register its trademarks. It is highly advisable for it to do so, for the reasons that will be outlined below.

What are the advantages of registering a business name as a trade mark?

Registration gives a statutory monopoly in a name and the right to prevent competitors from using it

It gives the assurance that you have the right to use the name in your commercial sector

Many businesses are bought and sold or have investment in them from third parties. Owning the rights to the trade mark is often a crucial part of negotiations as, understandably, investors need to know their investment is secure and that the business has secured the rights so it can protect itself

What are the implications if a business name is not trademarked?

A business name that is not trademarked will not enjoy the safeguards provided by the Trade Marks Act 1994 . This includes third parties securing rights in the brand which gives them prima facie ownership of it and the right to object to third party use

What issues might arise if a business name is not trademarked?

Should a company not register its trade mark, then it runs the risk of a rival organisation using a similar name and so benefitting from the trust and goodwill that it has established.

Customers may believe that the new company is connected to the original business and so buy its goods or services – thereby diverting profits.

In addition, if the second company’s offering is of an inferior quality, this could cause reputational damage to the first business with customers mistakenly believing it is responsible.

By not trademarking its name a company also opens up the possibility that a rival organisation will subsequently do so – and then try to prevent the original company from using it, or from expanding its product lines.

Such a scenario could result in costly and time-consuming legal action together with great operational disruption should the first business be forced to change its name.

Does a business name that is not trademarked have any protection?

It may be possible to claim protection of a business name under the common law concept of ‘passing off’. However, it is necessary to have substantial use of a name in order to rely on passing off.

Taking such action would be likely to be more complicated and costly than relying on a trade mark registration and the outcome can be less certain.

How can Trademark Eagle help protect my business name?

Trademark Eagle’s in-house counsel has considerable experience of all matters relating to the protection of business names and is delighted to use their expertise to support you.

We are renowned for our excellent customer service and work at all times with confidentiality, integrity and professionalism.

Please get in touch for more information:

Call: 01223 208 624


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