In order to gain publicity, your company must be completely discernible from its competitors. You’ve got to ensure that consumers will instantly recognise your products and be inclined to purchase those products without thinking twice. But how?
The answer lies in branding. According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), branding can relate to anything involving the names, terms, signs, symbols or designs used to differentiate your company from the competition. When it comes to branding, your company logo is the ultimate weapon. But what is a company logo? More importantly, how can you protect it?
What is a company logo?
Let’s start by developing a firm grasp of what constitutes a company logo. By and large, a logo can be defined as a type of unique brand image that a limited company or any other kind of business can create to identify its particular products or services.
In creating this image, a brand becomes far more easily recognisable to the general public and distinguishable from other products and businesses. You can protect a company logo in the UK by registering it with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) as a trademark. This will prevent other people from unlawfully using or copying your unique company logo.
What makes a great company logo?
So, you know how crucial it is to develop a successful logo; but what is it that makes a logo great? It’s a lot of pressure to tie an entire brand down to a single symbol and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. How are you supposed to ensure that your new design maximises your brand appeal?
According to Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of the web publishing firm SitePoint, creating a successful logo boils down to a few simple points:
1. Make it unique: As previously stated, your logo should stand out from the competition. Avoid overly used icons like globes and arrows, and try to establish your own unique colour scheme.
2. Make it adaptable: Your logo needs to be able to work for a wide range of platforms. Just ask yourself: will it look as good on a business card as it will on a billboard?
3. Make it timeless: Chances are, you’d like your company to be around more than a couple of years. In order to ensure brand sustainability, create a logo that looks like it will stand the test of time.
4. Make it appropriate: Your target audience should be able to fully identify with your company logo. That means it must accurately reflect your company culture and values.
When in doubt, conduct some market research and internal testing before you think about establishing something as your new company logo. Once you have done your homework and come up with something that tests well, you can think about registering it as your company’s official logo.
Do I have to register a company logo?
You should bear in mind that there is actually no legal requirement to register your company logo, however, it’s definitely worth your time. If you want to protect it from being used by other people, you should have it registered as a trademark. To meet the legal requirements of the Intellectual Property Office, a trademark must be a distinctive word, sound, logo or picture.
That being said, there are also a couple of different aspects that your logo must not include. For example, to register a logo, it must not contain any offensive material, be misleading or describe the goods or services it represents. Also, a registered logo cannot be a commonly-used statement, phrase or collection of everyday words that others use on a regular basis.
Consequently, before setting your heart on a particular logo, you should search the trademarks database to check whether an identical or similar trademark has already been registered by somebody else. In some cases, you may be able to obtain a letter of consent from an existing trademark holder in order to allow you to register a similar trademark. Yet, when in doubt, you should be aiming to produce a logo completely unlike that of any other company.
How to register a trademark in the UK
You can apply to register your brand logo with the IPO online or by post. On your application, you will be asked to provide the following details about the owner of the proposed trademark:
- Type of owner – individual person/sole trader, private limited company, partnership or limited liability partnership (LLP), trust or other.
- Company registration number (if applicable).
- Full registered company name (if applicable).
- Contact postal address, telephone number and email address.
The name and address supplied on your application form will be displayed on the IPO website shortly after submission; therefore, if you want to keep your home address private, you may wish to use the address of a solicitor or a PO Box. The cost of applying to register a trademark is £170. This is a non-refundable fee.
Within approximately 20 days, you should receive an ‘examination report’ with feedback on your application. Provided the examiner has no objections to your application, it will be published in the trademarks journal for a period of two months. This is to give members of the public an opportunity to raise any external objections. That being said, if no-one objects to your application you will be issued with a certificate confirming that your trademark has been successfully registered.
If someone does oppose your trademark application, the IPO will inform you as soon as possible. You will then be given three options:
- You can withdraw your application.
- You can talk to the person making the opposition.
- You can defend your application.
No matter which action you choose to take, you will not be able to register your trademark until the matter has been completely settled. You might also have to pay legal costs if you want to challenge the opposing party.
What do I do after registration of my company logo?
Once registered, you can place the ® symbol next to your company logo to show that it has been officially registered. That symbol should effectively deter other people from using it.
That being said, it’s important to remember that trademark protection does not last forever. Trademarks last for a period of 10 years. You will need to renew your trademark after that time. This can be done from 6 months before it expires and up to 6 months afterwards.
If your name, address or email address change after registration, you must inform the IPO immediately. It’s also worth mentioning that you may sell, market, license and mortgage your trademark, and you may object to other trademarks if they are identical or similar to your own.