How Important is it to get a Trademark for a Startup?

LONDON, UK / ACCESSWIRE / March 18, 2020 / So, you’ve just started your own business – congratulations! But your journey doesn’t stop there. Now it’s time to build your brand; to distinguish your own goods, services and ethos from your competitors (both current and would-be). It’s time to start establishing the unique name and image of your business as the ultimate mark of quality in your chosen field or industry.

It’s time… to get a trademark.

A registered trademark (®) provides your startup with proprietary rights over its intellectual property (IP), safeguarding your brand from being copied or reappropriated.

Things you can trademark include a single word (such as your business’ brand name), a symbol or drawing (your logo, for instance), or a tune or sound (like the jingle that accompanies your startup’s branding in TV or radio advertising).

You can also acquire a trademark for colours, packaging… even fragrances. The opportunities are endless, as are the benefits for businesses.

Let’s take the example of fast food giant McDonald’s. The name, the branding (those golden arches are comfortably one of the most recognisable logos on the planet), and the slogan (“I’m lovin’ it”) are all examples of how crucial trademarks are to a company’s image. Even McDonald’s’ iconic, almost Pavlovian jingle ba da ba ba baaa is enough to get mouths watering and wallets opening.

Without a trademark for any of that, McDonald’s would have been plagued by armies of copycat businesses, piggy-backing their way to a quick buck off the back of McDonald’s’ super sized success. Its menu would have been copied, along with its name, its branding, and its logo.

Those fake McDonald’s’ would have eventually undermined public perceptions of the original, and it would’ve been over for the food chain goliath before you could say “large McChicken Sandwich with fries and a McFlurry, please”.

McDonald’s is well aware of the importance of trademarks, too (just look at the vehemence of its legal pursuit of Irish restaurant chain “Supermacs” as all the evidence you need of that), as does any other business worth its salt.

It’s clear, then, that trademarks aren’t to be taken lightly. Moreover, they’re basically indispensable for businesses – especially those just starting out (even McDonald’s was a startup once, after all). So, does your startup need a trademark?

Yes. Yes it does. Here are five reasons why.

1. It’s easy to apply for… and surprisingly affordable

You can apply for a trademark by filling in a form on the government’s website. You’ll need to provide full details of the name, slogan, or illustration you want to register, along with the trademark classes you want to register in.

There are 45 classes of trademark – goods (1-34) and services (35-45), which you’ll need to select one or more of, depending on the nature of what you sell. The application costs an initial fee of £170, and you’ll pay an additional £50 for each additional class.

There’s even a service (‘Right Start’) that lets you check whether your application meets the rules for registration before you choose to proceed – though it comes with an upfront cost of £100.

2. It lasts for a decade

…and that means it’s one of the most enduring protections you can acquire for your startup. Your trademark won’t expire after that decade, either – you’ll just need to renew it, for a base cost of £200 and by filling out a short form (it’s just over a page long).

Ten years is also a relatively large amount of time, especially when compared to the longevity of other intellectual property protections in the UK. A registered design (such as a decoration, physical shape, or configuration) has to be renewed every five years, for instance.

£200 every ten years for full protection of your brand and reputation? It’s a steal.

3. It speaks your customer’s language

Unlike words alone, brand names and logos have the rare power to traverse differences imposed by cultural, national, and territorial factors. In other words, they transcend the barriers of words and letters to speak your customer’s language – even if you don’t.

That makes registering your trademark abroad (as well as in the UK) an absolute necessity – especially if your startup is looking to scale and internationalise.

As a UK startup, you can apply for a trademark that’s valid in the UK. You also have the option of filing for an EUTM (European Union Trademark), but this won’t protect businesses in the UK as of January 1st, 2021 (you know why). It’s still fairly straightforward to secure an international trademark abroad, though.

Providing you’ve secured a trademark in the UK (your “Office of Origin”), you can then file for one in your choice of 122 participating countries.

Still not convinced? Consider the cautionary tale of Burger King, which operates franchises in about 100 countries… except Australia, where (though the food and branding is basically identical) Burger King must trade under the name “Hungry Jacks”. The reason? The now-famous name of ‘Burger King’ was already trademarked by the owner of a small takeaway in Adelaide… a royal inconvenience!

4. If you don’t, someone else will

It sounds a tad ominous, sure, but it’s true. If your business becomes a success, it’ll attract the interested gaze of many a potential copycat. Remember the example of the McDonald’s knock-offs? If you don’t trademark your own business, there’s nothing from stopping a rip-off merchant from reappropriating your logo design or filching your brand name – and even trademarking it themselves!

Sure, you get some basic rights as a merchant trading under your own sign. However, these laws are much more complex (and costly!) to enforce than the rights that trademark registration bestows on your intellectual property.

5. It’s the key to your business’ future

As your staff numbers, revenue, and reputation grow, so will the power of your trademarked brand. And, when it comes to growing your reach – whether that’s creating a nationwide franchise or expanding beyond British borders – that power can unlock some seriously lucrative doors.

A trademark with a track record of proven success can help your startup acquire funding, and negotiate a higher fee when franchising it out. Having that ® symbol is also a powerful trust signal – whether to a stakeholder, an investor, or simply a consumer weighing your offerings up against those of a close competitor.

So, there you have it. Five reasons that illustrate how important it is for a startup to get a trademark. But, when it comes to registering your intellectual property, there’s only one question you should be asking yourself…

Can your business really afford not to?

Remember, you’ve done the hard part. You’ve grown your business from the ground up, taking the unique seed of a good idea and nurturing it into a flowering, profitable enterprise. Why risk it getting trampled?

Author: Rob Binns writes for Expert Market, a leading B2B comparison site empowering businesses across the UK and beyond. He specialises in analysis of merchant accounts and the payment industry. He’s happiest when unpacking the latest contactless trends and technologies, and discussing what these insights mean for business owners

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Company: Expert Market
Email: sergio@expertmarket.co.uk
Website URL: https://www.expertmarket.co.uk/

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