How much does a trade mark cost?
In a Dragon’s Den episode Maria Magembe and Hellen Lawuo-Meena sought £60,000 for 10% of their cosmetics business. The “Dragons” baulked at the notion that the business partners had spent £4000 on a UK trade mark. In response, the UK Intellectual Property Office talked about that business and how it is possible to DIY your trade mark registration directly with them at a very low cost. But, much does a trade mark cost, exactly?
We must admit, £4,000 does seem a large number to us. However, also we have extensive experience in helping people with DIY trade mark registrations. Indeed, we’ve covered some of the pitfalls of self-registering in previous blogs. In short, it is often disastrous.
Generally speaking, the cost of registering a trade mark depends upon:
- Whether you register in the UK AND/OR EU wide, or even further afield.
- the number of “Classes” you register your trade mark. For example, the UK Intellectual Property Office charge £50 per Class (after the 1st class). The EU IPO charge more. So, the more classes, the more the cost.
- Whether or not you instruct a trade mark specialist to advise, draft and register your trade mark.
Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t scrimp (or overspend!) when it comes to trade marks.
How Much Does a Trade Mark Cost? 5 Things You Need To Know
1. Clearing the Way
A clearance search (and professional advice interpreting its results) is vital when it comes to registering a trade mark. This makes sure other businesses don’t already have marks that conflict with yours. If this happens, they’re in their rights to seek to invalidate your mark and because they are now aware of you, may even instigate infringement proceedings against you to stop trading under the brand.
This leaves you without the ability to lawfully use your brand. What’s more, if this happens you don’t get your costs back.
2. Keeping it Distinct
A strong trade mark has to be distinctive. It’s a key factor when registering a trade mark. Trade marks cannot be generic, or simply descriptive of the goods and services they brand. For example “International Catering Services” for… international catering services would likely fail to be registered (even though it is a snappy name!) There are many other rules like this as well.
You can work around this by adding “distinctiveness” to the mark. It’s hard for a lay-person to discern how generic, and thus registerable, their mark might be.
3. Building Your Business through Your Brand
Whether: Nike’s “swoop” or Starbuck’s “mermaid”; trade marks are the cornerstone of brands. When you register a trade mark, you have to decide what part of the brand you should protect be it the word(s), the logo or something else. This depends on what is most important to you and also #1 and #2. You also have to register it for specific products or services which are organised by categories of “Classes”.. Generally speaking, you register your trade mark for products and services that are most relevant to your main offering. In the case of Nike and Starbucks, this would be shoes and coffee!
As you grow, you might want to deploy these marks for other products and services. For example, you might want to sell clothes with your brand on it. Registering for additional products/services comes at an added cost. Notably, you’re not able t add to an existing trade mark; so you’d need to file a new application. If others have got there first you might not be able to use the mark as you expand your business into new areas.
4. An International Mindset
Intellectual property rights are also territorial. What this means is that registering a trade mark in the UK only gives you the right to use that mark in the UK. There are extra costs associated with protecting your brand in other countries.
Like the specification of products and services, you want to be sure you can use your trade marks where your business plans to grow. For this, you need to know what trade marks are registered in the countries you’re aiming for. There may also be different ways to register your brand in other countries. This includes national, EU wide and an “International” trade mark, which is a single filing leading to a bundle of national rights in designated countries. There are pros and cons of each system and you need to know how to best register in these places.
As with #3, a lack of expertise can land-lock the way you can use your brand. It could also cost you more than you need.
5. Getting it Right from Day One
Yes, you may be able to register a trade mark today for pennies. But what does that decision mean for your business in 3 months? 3 years? 3 decades? Do you want such an important decision to be limited by a lack of expertise?
Household names are built on branding bedrock and have trade mark portfolios worth billions. Whether it’s pitfalls you fall into through sloppy registration – or a lack of forward planning… bad decisions at the registration stage can cost you much more down the line.
How Much Does a Trade Mark Cost? Summary
We assist hundreds of clients who have registered trade marks themselves. We want to help businesses build their brands. Instead, we often find ourselves repairing serious issues resulting from self-registration; where the money could be spent better elsewhere. It’s simply a case of taking a proactive mindset and not being placed on the back foot. Head of IP Create, Kirsten Toft had this to say about the issue:
"Whilst it is possible to file a trade mark directly at the UK IPO, it is not recommended. I have had to deal with many clients who file DIY trade marks and then run into problems, which ends up costing far more. It can also mean having more limited rights if someone else has got in before. Equally, it difficult to see how a UK trade mark could cost £4,000. If proper due diligence is conducted in the first place, it should be a lot less than this.
We help many SMEs obtain the best possible protection for their brands both in the UK and elsewhere. We pride ourselves on providing value for money and would be happy to discuss your needs with you and provide a quote without any obligation.” – Head of IP Create, Kirsten Toft
So how much does a trade mark cost? There’s no easy answer to that. The more pressing question is… how much can you afford not to spend what’s needed to register a truly powerful brand?