Company Name and Trade Mark
A company name is the name you choose for your business when setting up a company. It is registered at Companies House, which is the body responsible for company registration in the UK.
However, company law is different from trade mark law. Registration at Companies House cannot stop someone using a trade mark which is the same or similar to your business name.
Also, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) cannot guarantee that the name of a company accepted for registration at Companies House is acceptable as a registered trade mark. There are many reasons that a company name doesn’t qualify as a trade mark, the more common being:
- It is not considered distinctive
- It is a descriptive word or term
- It may indicate geographical origin
- It may already be registered in someone else’s name
Using a service such as the trade mark pre-apply service will help you to improve your chances of successfully registering a trade mark.
It is important to understand the early risks around building your company brand and marketing without securing a registered trade mark:
- not being able to trade because someone already has registered a similar trade mark in your business field
- only finding out later on that your business name doesn’t qualify as a trade mark
- competitors copying and using your name
The outcome could be having to change your name and incur the cost and effort of changing your marketing collaterals. A registered trade mark allows you to build and protect your brand with confidence
A domain name is a name by which a company or organisation is known on the internet. It usually incorporates the company name, or other identifier.
Being the owner of a registered trade mark, does not automatically entitle you to use that mark as a domain name. The main reason being, that the same trade mark can be registered for different goods or services and by different proprietors.
Also, someone may have already, and quite legitimately, registered the domain name, perhaps with its use being connected with unregistered goods or services.
The opposite also applies, if your domain name has been properly registered, it does not automatically follow that a similar trade mark will satisfy the requirements for trade mark registration.
If you want a domain name associated to a trade mark you may want to register it before submitting your trade mark application. This will help to prevent someone else from registering it after you have applied for your trade mark.
To register a domain name you must apply to an accredited Registrar. A list of accredited and accreditation-qualified Registrars can be found on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers web site.
Supporting Your Brand
You should ensure that you own the website design, company logo and any other marketing material that supports your brand image.
If you ask another person or company to design or create your website content, other marketing material and even your company logo, then THEY will own the copyright in that work UNLESS your contract with them gives you ownership in writing.
You should still be able to use it for the purpose agreed BUT they may also be able to design or create a similar logo, web or marketing material for someone else without needing your permission. You may also not be able to adapt and re-use the content as you might want to.
You should ensure that if you do use another person/company to design or create the content and logo for you, that the contract ‘assigns’ copyright ownership to you in writing.
You can get further free information and guidance on copyright and assignment at the Business and IP Centre in Birmingham Library
HOW DO YOU SECURE YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
The best way to keep something confidential is not to disclose it in the first place. If you do need to share information you should use a non-disclosure agreement.