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How to Register a Trademark for Your Retail Store

27 February 2023

Trademarks have been used to signify the ownership of products for centuries. As far back as 1266, English bakers used stamps to make sure their loaves of bread weren’t mistaken for the work of another baker. The concept of branding a product with its own unique trademark is incredibly important for small retail business owners.

Whether you are selling goods through an online e-commerce site or via a retail store, registering a trademark can help to protect your business. 

Unfortunately, many retail entrepreneurs are not aware the significance of trademarks. There is a lack of knowledge of exactly what a trademark is, what it can do for a business owner, what can be trademarked, and how to register a trademark. 

In this article, we’ll outline just why trademarking is so important for retailers. We’ll go over how to apply for a trademark and show you an example of a trademark application. You’ll even learn how to cancel the entire process. 

Andrea Landi

Why is it a good idea to register a trademark?

Imagine that you went into a retail store and bought a can of soft drink. The label on the can states that it is one of the world’s most popular drinks. It features all the colours, slogans and branding you would expect to see. You are confident you have the right product, so you open it and take a sip. 

And it tastes nothing at all like it is supposed to. It’s a fake product that has undergone none of the quality controls or safety testing of the original. The company that released it is simply using an existing brand to sell an inferior product. 

Trademarking protects both consumers and companies. By registering a trademark, you can prevent other companies from copying your products and using your branding. Trademarks provide customers with a guarantee of quality and enhance the reputation of a brand. They can become powerful and highly effective marketing tools with their own intrinsic value.  

Registering your brand provides you with the right to seek legal action against anyone who is imitating it. You can also instigate legal action against anyone who registers a conflicting or too similar trademark. 

What can and cannot be a registered trademark?

In the UK, trademarks are regulated under the Trade Marks Act 1994. So, what can be a registered trademark? UK trademarks can be:

  • Sounds
  • Logos
  • Words
  • Colours
  • Any combination of the above

Under UK trademark law, however, not everything can be registered. You cannot register a trademark if it:

  • Contains offensive words or images
  • Describes the goods or services it relates to
  • Is misleading or deceptive
  • Is too common or vague
  • Is a generic shape
  • Uses national flags without permission
  • Uses official emblems or hallmarks without permission

What is a trademark application?

A trademark application is a formal written request to register a brand as your own intellectual property or as the property of a company. Trademark registration applications can be sent via the post or by using an online registration form. In the UK, all trademark registration applications go through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

How to apply for a trademark registration

  • Step One: Spend some time developing your trademark and be sure that your brand is eligible to become trademarked. Make sure your trademark is memorable, that it meets all IPO requirements, and that it will appeal to your customers. 
  • Step Two: Make sure that your chosen trademark is not already registered by completing a registered trademark search at the IPO website. If you find a trademark that has expired or does not seem to be being used, you should be cautious. Trademarks can be reactivated in certain circumstances. If you have found that the trademark you want has already been registered, you can contact the owner to enquire about licensing it for use or acquiring it outright. 
  • Step Three: Fill out an IPO trademark registration application form either by hand on paper or online via the IPO website. 
  • Step Four: If you are planning on expanding your business outside the UK, you may wish to consider applying for a trademark in jurisdictions outside the UK.
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An example of a trademark application

If you want to trademark a business name or register a brand name, the easiest way to do so is online at the IPO website. In general, you will need to follow these steps:

Select who is registering the trademark, either yourself or a company. 

  1. Fill in all your contact details. 
  2. Enter the basic text of your trademark, if applicable.
  3. Upload a more detailed format of your trademark. You’ll need to upload an image and choose whether your trademark applies to words, letters or numbers only, words, letters or numbers with a picture, or if you are trademarking a sound. 
  4. Choose whether you a registering a single trademark, or a series of trademarks.
  5. Decide which class your trademark belongs to. There are 45 UK trademark classes that you can choose from. 
  6. Input a disclaimer, if you wish to do so. 
  7. File a priority claim, if you wish to do so. This is only applicable if you applied for a trademark registration outside of the UK within the last six months. 
  8. Select the type of trademark. You can choose from a standard trademark or a right start trademark. A standard trademark costs £170, which is non-refundable and payable immediately. A right start trademark will cost £200 with £100 payable immediately. In both cases, adding multiple classes costs an additional £50 per class.
  9. Review your application. Be careful to go over every detail to be sure you haven’t made any mistakes.

Once submitted, details of your trademark will be published in the IPO Trade Marks journal. By doing this, anyone who wishes to challenge your right to use the trademark can do so. It can take anywhere from three to four months for the IPO to approve a trademark registration application. 

A trademark registration lasts for ten years. Trademarks can be renewed six months before they expire or six months after they expire. To renew a trademark, you will need to pay a renewal fee of £200 plus an additional £50 per class. 

How you can cancel a trademark application

Cancelling a trademark application is known as surrendering a registration. You may wish to cancel your application for a variety of reasons, for example, if you have decided not to pursue your business or if you have decided to drastically change your trademark business name or registered logo.

To cancel a trademark application, you will need to fill in a Notice to Surrender a Registration form and submit it to the IPO. There is no fee associated with cancelling a trademark registration application. 

It is also possible to change the owner of a trademark. This is also done via a form from the IPO and attracts a fee of £50.

The IPO may deny the registration of your trademark. This is usually done because the trademark does not meet IPO requirements, or contains elements that cannot be trademarked. To dispute the decision, you will need to fill out a Request for a Statement of Reasons for Registrar’s Decision form to get information. You can then obtain legal advice on the validity of the decision. The form costs £100 and must be sent in within one month of the date of the IPO’s decision. 

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How much does it cost to trademark a name or register a brand in the UK?

Standard trademarks cost £170, non-refundable and payable immediately. Right start trademarks cost £200 with £100 payable immediately. Adding multiple classes costs an additional £50 per class.

How long does a trademark last in the UK?

A trademark will be valid for ten years. Trademarks can be renewed. This can be done six months before they expire or six months after they expire. There is a renewal fee of £200 plus an additional £50 per class. 

If my trademark registration application is denied, can I appeal the decision?

The IPO may occasionally deny the registration of a trademark because it does not meet requirements. If this occurs, you can fill out a Request for a Statement of Reasons for Registrar’s Decision form to get information. You may then wish to challenge the decision. The request form costs £100 and should be filled out within one month of the date the IPO’S decision was sent to you. 

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