An introduction to trademark registering and copyright permissions
Adam from the Wedding Insurance Group discusses protecting intellectual property with Victoria Hall IP about what you can expect when naming a business, registering a trademark and using content created by others.
Meet Vicki, who is a professional trademark attorney. She worked in commercial law before taking a break to start her family.
During this time, Vicki set up a wedding planning business to support her family and re-engage her passion for the hospitality sector. Vicki has now combined her legal knowledge and passion to help small businesses, particularly those in the wedding industry traverse the rocky shores of intellectual property.
Here’s what I learnt after spending an hour with Vicki discussing trademarking and copyright. It will give you a summary of what you can expect when naming a business, registering a trademark and using content created by others.
If you do decide to register a trademark or license your intellectual property, we highly recommend you seek professional advice.
Crafting a unique business identity
Wedding professionals are starting new businesses all the time. The proliferation of the digital age has made it easier than ever for working professionals to go at it alone or change their career.
As a result, there are many instances of new businesses popping up with similar names to existing entities. Here’s an example:
Two different businesses with similar names and domains appear in the same search result. This can cause confusion with prospective customers.
Vicki comes across this all the time. Owners who have already purchased their domain and employed a designer to work on their logo without properly checking to see if their business name is a suitable option. It’s understandable because for many, this is one of the most exciting times of their lives.
The first step is to check that your desired business name is available.
How to check before choosing a business name
1. Check the Companies House register to see if there is already an existing business. If there are businesses with similar variations of your desired name, it’s best to choose an alternative that is much more unique.
You do have the option of setting up a trading name. This is a name you choose to call your business which is different from your registered name with Companies House. You can find out more info on choosing a company name here.
2. Search the UK trademark registry using keywords. You can also search the Intellectual Property Office Trade Marks Journal for applications registered in the last week. This is handy for finding out if your desired name has been registered as a trademark but not as a registered company. (We cover what your options are if you want to use a trademarked name later on.)
3. Check to see if your domain is available. Namech_k is a wonderful tool for doing this. It checks your domain variations but also tells you if your search is available as a username on all major social media platforms. If .com has been taken, it’s worth checking the website, for example, to ascertain if the business is not operating in the UK.
4. Search social media for existing businesses that may not be registered. Wedding businesses that do not have a website are highly dependant on platforms like Facebook. So it’s always best to check what names they are using even if your .co.uk domain is available.
Next, you may plan to register a trademark. Here’s are some pointers to consider.
What is a trademark?
Trademarks are physical creations that help consumers distinguish the goods and services of one trader from the next. Trademarks primarily exist to prevent plagiarism and consumer confusion. You can find out more about trademarks on the government’s website.
How do trademarks work?
When applying to register a trademark, you must use the classification system to specify the goods and/or services you’ll be using it on.
For example, if the trademark is to be used on your own clothing line, you’d choose class 25 (clothing, footwear and headgear).
Once registered, trademarks cannot be altered and are renewed every 10 years. Imagine you have just registered a trademark under two classes of goods and services. 7 years later, your business has expanded its service offering. You cannot add new classes to your existing trademark and would be required to register a new one. You cannot even amend trademarks when they are due for renewal.
So, you have just set up your bridal shop and you want to register a trademark. Think about how your business could expand in the future. Will you start offering planning or hair and makeup services? This all needs to be considered when selecting your trademark classes.
Without planning your trademark registration, you run the risk of missing out potential classes of goods and services meaning you will have to manage multiple trademarks and renewals. This will cost you more time and money.
I’ve got my heart set on a name that is trademarked – what do I do?
You’ve got a name, it’s not registered with Companies House and it’s available as a .co.uk domain and on all major social media platforms. But you’ve found out the name is registered as a trademark in a different industry and you are worried about infringement.
Firstly, check the trademark descriptions. A trademark may be used by the owner who is providing a similar service in a different industry so you need to identify how similar the trademark is to your services. Checking the classes gives you an idea of what list of goods the trademark is registered under.
If you decide to continue with your business name, Vicki says it’s best to contact the trademark owner(s) and ask for permission.
The trademark registration process contains a stage called the ‘Opposition Period’. New trademarks are advertised online for a period of up to 3 months where third parties have the opportunity to register their objections and challenges. If challenged, you will be required to submit evidence and most likely will require a professional for support.
It’s worth noting this is not a guaranteed method of success. It’s always best to ask yourself whether it’s worth the time and cost to use a name that is already trademarked by a business offering different services in a separate industry.
My business operates internationally, what do I need to consider?
You may be a destination wedding planner or thinking about opening a venue abroad. Naturally, the rules of trademarking differ across each country. Therefore, it’s crucial you seek professional guidance to help you understand the differences.
Copyright: using work created by others
Remember when using the work of others, even on social media, you must get permission from the copyright holder unless you have a specific agreement or license.
Photographers may license their photos to the paying couple. Therefore, if the bride sent you some photos after the wedding, you would still require the permission of the photographer before using them.
Wedding vendors are working with each other and that in turn has created a wonderful network of community support across the industry. Chances are, the photographer will say yes if you ask.
Tagging, mentioning or linking as a form of credit is a common part of permission agreements. It’s always best to have a written record of everything.
Remember, you are the copyright holder for images and videos created by yourself.
Take your time when deciding on a business name. Be sure to ask for permission before using work created by another person or business. If you are planning to register a trademark, speak to a professional for advice.