Running your own eCommerce business can be an incredibly rewarding process, but it is also a complex and challenging time. When you begin your journey, you are responsible for everything, from inventory and shipping to marketing and the legalities of running your own business.
For many eCommerce business owners, it requires quickly having to learn a number of new techniques, topics, rules and terminology. If you have never had to cover or practice these areas of business management before, it can be a very steep learning curve.
One area that many eCommerce business owners frequently struggle with is the legal topic of trademarking. This is an important area as you spend a long time working on your business, building your brand identity, establishing a consumer base and establishing your position in the marketplace.
However, there are many unscrupulous businesses out there who look to profit by using an established brand’s popularity by copying their products, logos and even company name. This can quickly undo all of your hard work and ruin your business. Learning how to trademark your business and your intellectual property effectively can protect your eCommerce business and ensure you are able to thrive.
What Is A Trademark?
No matter whether you are a large multinational corporation, or a sole trader eCommerce store, a trademark is a valuable asset to your business. It acts as a way of identifying that the products being purchased are coming from the brand they claim to, helping consumers to know exactly where the products they are buying have come from, and businesses to protect their brand image.
A trademark has to be unique, which means that you cannot apply for something that has already been registered for a trademark. However, you can apply to trademark anything that helps to identify a company or product, including a phrase, company name, symbol, design or a product itself. That means you could trademark your eCommerce store name, your colours or your logo.
You cannot, however, trademark a description of a product. So, for example, if your ecommerce store focused on retailing the latest sports footwear, you could not apply to trademark the name ‘trainers’ or ‘sports shoes’.
Before launching your eCommerce company, you should check to see if your brand name has already been trademarked by someone else. This will prevent you from receiving notification later down the line that you are in infringement of someone else’s trademark. Equally, when you do launch your eCommerce business, you should ensure that you have trademarked your own brand, as this will prevent someone else from taking that name and trying to stop you from using it.
If that does happen, then it is possible to fight back using what is known as “unregistered rights”. This is a legal term which will look at how long you have been using that name, and the goodwill that you might have been able to build up; however, this is a very expensive and time-consuming process, and not always guaranteed to rule in your favour, so it is better to trademark your brand as soon as possible.
What Are Different Types Of Trademarks?
As previously mentioned, a trademark is designed to help offer your business legal protection for a certain word, phrase, logo, design or name. Yet trademarking something is a little more complex than that and typically you will need to file for a trademark in one of five core categories:
A Generic Mark can only be classified as a trademark if it contains specific details about your business or product. For example, you could claim for a generic mark if you were trying to file the name “fish and chips” as this would prevent all other shops selling these products from doing so.
To successfully file for a generic mark, you will need to clearly describe the unique characteristics, qualities or ingredients of your products.
This form of trademark is designed to help you to protect one or more of the characteristics of your products or service. There are a number of unique elements that are required in order for it to be protected under trademark law, including having a secondary meaning, number of sales, length of the trademark’s use and how it is perceived by consumers – meaning they must recognise the mark as being part of your brand.
This is a form of a trademark that protects the goods or services you offer, and does not normally require you needing a secondary meaning. As this is a ‘suggestive’ trademark, it does not necessarily mean it needs to convey the products being retailed, for example, the use of the car manufacturer Jaguar suggests speed, but does not immediately bring to mind an automobile.
A Fanciful Mark is the ability to trademark something like a name, logo or term that is unlike anything else in existence. This is often reserved for brands using made-up names, for example, Kodak cameras or Nike. This is one of the easiest forms of a trademark to acquire, as you will not need to compete with any similar brands or generic terms.
This is a form of a trademark that is used to protect a term, or phrase, that is well-known but is used in a different format for your brand. For example, one of the best examples of an Arbitrary Mark is Apple, with the electronics not having anything to do with the fruit or meaning of the word.
What Does It Mean To Have A Trademark And Why Should I Register One?
When you have been able to trademark your brand or products, it gives you exclusive rights to use that name, phrase or logo and will provide you with legal protection. That means you will be able to prevent any other companies using your trademarked terms and stop them from being able to cash in off the back of your hard work.
A trademark does not just give you legal protection; it also prevents confusion from consumers and ensures they know exactly where their products are coming from. Equally, registering for a trademark gives Trading Standards and Officers the ability to stop counterfeiters and charge them for infringing upon your intellectual property.
A trademark is also a useful marketing tool, signalling to your ecommerce customers that you are a professional and credible business. In this modern digital world, consumers look to connect with brands and build lasting relationships with them, so registering for a trademark is a powerful tool in protecting your identity.
Some Examples of Trademark
Examples of trademarks can be found all around us, but here are four of some of the most popular in the world:
Iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel, trademarked her own name, allowing her to build the vast empire that the brand has since become. Arguably one of the most famous examples of trademarking a name, Coco Chanel ensured customers knew that when purchasing a product that bore this name, they would be enjoying the very best quality possible.
Of course, getting a trademark is not just about the brand name, and fast food giant McDonalds has trademarked their famous golden arches. The two interlinking gold arches have become synonymous with the brand, with drivers seeing them from a distance on the motorway and immediately knowing what lies ahead!
Do you remember watching the original series of The Apprentice? If so, then Donald Trump’s iconic line “You’re Fired!” when a competitor left the show became famous all over the world – but did you know the now President of the United States trademarked the phrase?
It isn’t just massive corporations or TV shows that are benefitting from trademark laws. Pop sensation Taylor Swift and get legal team regularly file trademark applications for lyrics to some of her biggest tracks, including “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” and “Look What You Made Me Do”.
What Can and Cannot Be Registered As A Trademark?
As previously mentioned, in order to be successful with a trademark application, you need to be applying for a unique term. According to the UK Government, you can apply to trademark:
However, there are certain things that you can not apply for a trademark for. This includes:
How to Register a Trademark?
If you are starting out and wondering how to trademark your eCommerce business, you might be wondering where to start. If this is your first time applying for a trademark, it can be a confusing process, but the earlier you apply for it, the better protected your eCommerce business will be as you progress and expand.
To help you, we have put together our step-by-step guide to registering a trademark:
Step One: Start the application
The first step is to visit the UK Government website, where you will be able to start applying for your trademark.
Step Two: Select the applicant
When you begin, you will be asked whether you are registering for a trademark on behalf of yourself, or for a company. You will also be asked if you are authorised to do this for the relevant party.
Step Three: Complete your details
Once you have confirmed your identity, you will then be able to start the process of completing your details. If you have previously applied for a trademark, you will be able to retrieve this information using your email address.
If it is your first time completing it, then you will need to complete information such as your business name, address and industry you work in.
Step Four: Basic trademark information
The next step is to start completing the words, letters or numbers you want to trademark. To do this, you simply need to enter the details in the relevant box before moving on. If you are looking to trademark a logo or colour, then this page is not applicable to you.
Step Five: Advanced trademark information
The next stage is to complete a more in-depth guide to what you are looking to trademark. You will face three key options to choose from:
Step Six: Single or Series Trademark
The next step is to decide whether you want to register for a Single Trademark, which gives good protection if someone tries to copy or slightly alter your chosen phrase, or Series Trademark, which helps you trademark a range of variations (such as mobile logos). There is an additional cost of £50 for every variation that you add.
Step Seven: Select class and term
At this stage, you will need to identify the type of business you conduct. There is a searchable option here to help you find the specific industry and the goods/services that you offer your customers.
Step Eight: Disclaimer
Once you have been able to complete all of the information, you will be given the option to add a disclaimer to help you specify exactly the rights you’re trying to claim. However, for the vast majority of applications, this is not needed.
Step Nine: Select priority
You will then be given an option of filing for a priority application, which is eligible to those businesses who have applied for the same trademark outside of the UK in the last six months. If this does not apply to you, then you should select ‘normal’ filing.
Step Ten: Review
The final step is to decide which type of trademark you want to apply for and then fully review your application to ensure that you have included everything you need to.
How Much Does It Cost To Register A Trademark?
There is currently a £200 fee to create an application to register a trademark, start invalidation proceedings or revoke a trademark. To amend the regulations governing a trademark costs £100, whilst the renewal of a trademark also costs £200.
Full costs relating to applying, renewing or editing a trademark can be found here.
What Can I Do If Someone Copies My Brand?
Unfortunately, as your business expands and you become more successful, you will likely face a string of competitors looking to copy your brand and style. Whilst they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, when it comes to your ecommerce business, it can be highly damaging.
If you think someone might be using your brand, then the first thing you should do is to establish if there is definitely a trademark infringement. If there is, then the first step should be to contact the brand directly. There might be a case of a genuine mistake, and they will be willing to change, but if not, then you should send a cease-and-desist.
If that still does not stop them from using your brand and trademarked property, then you should contact your lawyer, who will be able to begin court proceedings as required.
Get started with Kuber Digital
If you are looking to set up your own ecommerce business, or transform your existing site, then Kuber Digital is here to help you. Our unique platform has been specifically built to help you to attract, engage and retain customers, ensuring you can take your business to the next level.
We understand that each business is different, which is why we do not utilise a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we operate a bespoke service built around your business and requirements, helping you to reduce the admin involved in running an ecommerce business and allowing you to focus on growing your business.