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Top tips on trade marks

Steve Forbes (he of Forbes Magazine fame) once said, "Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your busiess".  While that may be an extreme view, there's no doubt that there are few, if any businesses, that don't have (and use) a brand to some extent.  And if that brand is worth something (or is going to be worth something), it's worth protecting. 

We thought we'd look at one aspect of brand protection - the trademark.

A trade mark may be a word, letter, colour, sound or symbol (logo). There are a few basic elements that must be kept in mind when thinking about trademarks.

The following checklist is a good tool to use when you are looking at a trade mark for your business:

Trade marks should:
• be inherently distinctive
• be easy to memorise and pronounce
• fit the product or image of the business
• have no legal restrictions – this means that you cannot obtain a registration for items such as flags or other State emblems, official signs, hallmarks etc.
• have a positive connotation – for example, a trade mark should not contain offensive content such as swear words or inappropriate imagery..

You should also ensure that the mark is not:
• descriptive of the item/service you are providing
• and not be something that could be considered as laudatory – for example, avoid words such as BEST, PREMIER, GREATEST as the IPO will see these as an expression of praise and therefore, not something that is able to be trade marked.

A great example of this is the ‘APPLE’ trade mark. Steve Jobs was able to gain a trade mark for “Apple” because apples and computers were not, at that time, intrinsically linked — but if he had applied for the “Apple” trademark as the owner of a fruit juice factory, he would have been turned down.

The more unique the mark, the stronger it is as a trade mark and the easier it is to police use by third parties and take action in case of infringement. Made up marks are always the better choice as they have no meaning other than one that you as a business work to associate with it.

If you have a brand that you want to protect, our IP team is here to help you. Contact Louise Handley ( , Sara Ludlam ( or Lyndsey Hall (

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