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What is a trade mark (or brand)?

A trade mark is a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors (you may refer to your trade mark as your "brand"). It can be for example words, logos or a combination of both. The only way to register your trade mark is to apply to us - The Intellectual Property Office.

You can use your trade mark as a marketing tool so that customers can recognise your products or services.

Trade marks are acceptable if they are:

  • distinctive for the goods and services you provide. In other words they can be recognised as signs that differentiates your goods or service as different from someone else's.

You may be familiar with the trade marks below. They don't describe the goods or services, which is why they are good examples of registrable trade marks.

The above logos have been reproduced with kind permission of WH Smith Retail Limited and PZ Cussons (International) Limited.

If you are confident that your trade mark is acceptable, you can apply online now.

Trade marks are not registrable if they:

  • describe your goods or services or any characteristics of them, for example, marks which show the quality, quantity, purpose, value or geographical origin of your goods or services;
  • have become customary in your line of trade;
  • are not distinctive;
  • are three dimensional shapes, if the shape is typical of the goods you are interested in (or part of them), has a function or adds value to the goods;
  • are specially protected emblems;
  • are offensive;
  • are against the law, for example, promoting illegal drugs; or;
  • are deceptive. There should be nothing in the mark which would lead the public to think that your goods and services have a quality which they do not.

Check out our examples of acceptable and unacceptable trade marks.

A registered trade mark must be renewed every 10 years to keep it in force.

What is a brand?

A brand is a 'promise of an experience' and conveys to consumers a certain assurance as to the nature of the product or service they will receive. Intellectual property rights provide legal protection for some of the most important aspects of a brand.

Fast Facts

  • If you have registered your company name with Companies House, this is different to registering a trade mark. If you want to protect your trade mark (brand) then it must be registered as a trade mark. This can only be done with us.

Trade marks and company names

To help clarify the difference between a trade mark and a company name, Companies House provide a useful table explaining the functions performed by the different offices.