When you register a company, you’re preventing your company name from being registered by anyone else. However, if you want to use the ® symbol next to your brand, take legal action against others who try to use it or sell and license your brand, you will need to register it as a trademark. A trademark is a form of intellectual property.
Intellectual property is “the right to ownership of knowledge”. The “intellectual” refers to the application of the mind or creative work and “property” refers to the fact that it can be owned, bought, sold, or licensed like any other property.
Most businesses will have some kind of intellectual property and it can be a valuable commercial asset when applied to business or industrial processes, trade secrets or other “know how”. It can also cover confidential information such as business plans, client lists or recipes.
If anyone uses your intellectual property without your permission, or attempts to copy it, you have legal rights against them for infringement. If the infringement involves counterfeiting (producing fake goods) or piracy (illegal copying), then your local Trading Standards Office may be able to help as well as the police and HMRC.
A trademark is a type of intellectual property: a symbol, word or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product.
The Intellectual Property Office says trademarks are acceptable if they are “distinctive for the goods and services you provide”. This means they can be recognised as signs that differentiates your goods or services as different from someone else’s.
The other types of intellectual property are copyright, patents and design rights. Read more about these in our guide to common terms you may encounter when forming a company.