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Seller Blog

Advice, help and support for ASOS Marketplace sellers.

A Seven Step Guide to Protecting Your Brand

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

When you start out as a fashion designer, maker or seller like all other creative enterprises you have to decide on what to call yourself. You might for example use your own personal name or trade under a business name. Some of you may have started trading using an eye-catching name, phrase or motif but what you might not realise is that without sufficient checks and seeking to register a trade mark, your brand isn’t safe in the commercial marketplace.

When you officially register as a sole-trader (aka self-employed) a partnership or a company, the following seven step guide helps you to avoid costly mistakes with your label name or logo often referred to in legalese as your ‘mark’.

When you see the â next to your favourite label or store name it means they have registered their name, possibly the graphic representation of their mark and logo as a registered trade mark. When you see ä this means that the business founders are stating this is our ‘trademark’ either before or whist waiting for official registration to come through. Trademarks are registered by ‘territory’ which usually means by country.

1.     Go out and check the world
You might not be aware but it is now a legal requirement for anyone setting up as self-employed, partnership or a limited company to make sure they’re not using the same business name as another enterprise. You might not have officially registered yourself as a business, by-the-way if you haven’t and you have started to make sales you need to get this done. So even if you’re using a name and you haven’t officially registered as a business you can still run into problems.

The best thing to do is undertake some thorough research to see if anyone else is using the same name or very similar name to the one you have begun to use. A useful search engine to begin this task is start.biz but don’t rely on this as your only check. If you plan to target marketing in other countries then I would expand the scope of your search beyond our shores.

2.       Getting it right with business names
The key thing to understand is registering a domain name and setting up social media accounts, either using your own personal or business name is extremely important, but legally a waste of time if the business name you are using is already filed as a limited company or registered as a trademark with the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) especially if it registered in class 25, which is for fashion items such as shoes, clothing and headwear.

3.       The importance of a sleeping company
At the moment many of you might be registered as a sole-trader (aka self-employed) and have no desire to register a limited company as there is some expense and complicated paperwork to complete. However, if you have big plans for the future or find you are starting to make lots of money then registering is advisable for a number of other reasons.

However, if you wish to protect your name in the market place you can register a limited company at Companies House and then not activate it. This is known as being ‘dormant’ and protects your personal or business name on the Companies House Register. Doing this stops competitors from registering your sole-trader business name as a company. With the benefit being that when you are ready to stand in slightly bigger shoes, your right to trade as a limited company will be safeguarded.

4.       What is a trademark?
A trademark is part of a category of rights called ‘Intellectual Property’ and is designed, once you have successfully registered your mark, that you will have the sole right to exploit the name or motif in the UK or for the whole of the EU if seeking wider protection. There are some costs involved with registration, and it is possible to register your mark yourself but it is worth seeking some advice about it before you start.

5.       Why bother with the hassle?
Once you start building up your business, your brand will become recognisable in your area of trade, this is known as establishing ‘good will’. Many businesses don’t register their mark for various reasons, apathy being one of them. However, if you fail to register it, even if you’ve set up a company, your brand is still not secure. Another business could apply for trade mark registration at any time, and then you would have to challenge the registration which costs a great deal of money and it would be up to you to prove you had established ‘good will’. 

6.       What key things do I need to know?
When you fill in the registration forms which you can download from the IPO website if you register your name, graphic representation (the look) or and a logo do it in black and white, this means your mark will be legally protected reproduced in any colour.

7.       Is my name safe to use if unregistered?
If for some reason you never get round to registering your brand then you might be trading on borrowed time, and find in the future you would be allowed to open a boutique in London for instance as someone else has registered the name and owns the rights for the UK. If unsuccessful in registering I would throw yourself on the mercy of a good IP solicitor, as it’s likely they will know how to overcome any objections from the IPO office. Many businesses continue to trade after rejection using ä and then, if still keen to gain the â, after they’ve proven ‘goodwill’ have successfully registered some time later.

Alison Branagan runs a number of business, promotion and entrepreneurship short courses at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. For more details about Alison’s business advice services please contact alison@alisonbranagan.com or get in touch via Twitter.

More details about business names, trademarks and other rights such as design right are featured in Alison's bestselling book ‘The Essential Guide to Business for Artists & Designers’ Revised and Updated, for sellers new to business she has also written a pocket book ‘A Pocket Business Guide for Artists & Designers’ which is also available in paperback and on Kindle.
 


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