Should You Copyright Your Business Name? (We Find Out)
When you are just starting a business, the last thing you want is your hard work to be taken, or worse, stolen because someone takes your name. So, can you copyright your business name? When you start looking into how to protect your business, it can seem very overwhelming. You will find yourself wondering if you should copyright or trademark your business. Many will wonder what those terms truly mean.
When you have a business that you plan to grow, you should always trademark your name, not copyright it. Copyrights are not for business names and are used for arts and music, etc. As your business grows, more people will see your name. This opens you up to have your name taken out from under you.
Trademarking your business’s name is a significant step that is sometimes overlooked. It doesn’t seem important until someone takes a name that you have worked hard to grow. If they were to trademark it before you, it would mean changing your whole brand and starting over. Read on to find out everything there is to know about trademarking your business name.
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Before Choosing A Name
This step is almost as important as the trademark or copyright itself. Before you pick your business name, you need to make sure the name has not already been selected by someone else. It can take weeks to come up with the name that suits you, and yet it seems like every time you settle on the perfect name, you find out it’s already been taken.
Whether it’s a funny idea or a family name, you may be surprised at just how many business names are taken already. When you search the UK Intellectual Property Office’s site, you will find out if your name is already taken and even see if there are similar names. You may not want a name that sounds close to another popular business.
It can be a little confusing to the customers and potentially get you into some trouble. If you were to sell the same products or services and their customers start coming to you because you have similar names, you could face legal consequences. It can seem very overwhelming and frustrating trying to find a name that isn’t already taken.
Social Media And A Domain Name
After finding the perfect name, the next step for business owners is typically to start looking at social media. To help grow your brand, you can create an account on every social media site there is. You can also look for domain names (websites).
These are a little easier to create. You can make your domain name be your actual business name or something close to it. This opens up many more options when it comes to having your own site. It can even be a play on words that has to do with your business name. So there is no need to stress when you find out your name is taken. There are also ways to go about getting a taken domain name.
You can go to any domain name site such as GoDaddy to search for available names. If the name is available, you are good to go. If it isn’t, there is sometimes an option to buy the rights to the domain name for a reasonable price. You could also try different variations to a .com or .uk such as:
You have the option to buy the rights to any of these and more. Depending on what your site is promoting, some of these may not work for you. Still, it opens you up to far more options.
What Is A Copyright? Can you copyright your business name?
Copyrighting is you stating that you own the name or work that you are trying to copyright. As long as you originally create it, then it can be copyrighted. When you make or produce something, it is technically copyrighted upon creation but registering and legally getting it copyrighted protects you. No one will be able to use your name or logo.
Copyright alone will not protect your business name. It is a good idea also to trademark your business name. Copyright is made for:
If you have created it, then it can be copyrighted. The works need to be your own original creations. Copyrights do not really apply to a business name, though. If you have a business that produces any of these works, you can copyright them. You will be protected from anyone stealing your work. A business name is a name or brand; this is where a trademark comes into play.
What Is A Trademark?
A trademark is when you take ownership of one of the following:
You are saying that the business affiliated with this word or phrase, for instance, belongs to you. This protects other businesses from stealing your customers by using your symbol. You can search the UK Intellectual Property Office’s database. To see all trademarked items before choosing your own. There are some cases where an already trademarked named could still be used as your business name. There is a circumstance that is dealt with differently that can include:
- Trademark class – Every trademark is in a different class. If there is a business using your name in a completely different class, the one you will be using could work for you. This may not always work, but as long as both names are in different classes, you could keep the name or phrase, etc., that you love.
- Trademark use – When a trademark isn’t used for over five years, it is classified as an expired trademark. If this is the case, you can apply to have the trademark canceled and then register it as your own. (If you do this, it’s a good idea to do an online search of the trademark. It could have been associated with a business that you would not want to be.)
- Trying to obtain permission to use said trademark – When you search the trademark database listed above, you will see the owner’s information. You could always try and reach out to the owner. They could allow you to license the trademark for a fee of their choice. If they no longer use it, they may even just let the trademark go; if it’s a trademark you have your heart set on, it could be worth it to ask.
- Changing your trademark – If you have no luck with reaching out to the person, you can always alter your name, phrase, or design. You can’t have a trademark that is too similar to another business, but there are loopholes to this rule.
- Starting Over – Worst case, you will need to start over completely. While this can be very frustrating, don’t let a simple thing like the name or design stop you from growing a great business. In the end, it isn’t your name you are selling; it is your products or services.
Should You Trademark Your Business Name?
You cannot copyright your business name because it isn’t an intellectual creation of yours, such as music or art. You can and absolutely should trademark your business name. You also need to register your trademark other than just using it to be fully protected.
Pro Tip: You can use the ™ next to your trademark without registering it. However, it is illegal to use the ® unless you have registered your name.
A registered trademark is legally protected from being copied. Without it, though, you have no defence case if someone steals your design or style. Another company will not be able to have a name that is too close to yours without getting into trouble.
If you have a very small business that is only local and you never see taking off, then there may not be any need to register for a trademark. It does cost money which is sometimes hard to come by when just starting your business. Most people do not think this way, but there are some cases where you may not need a registered trademark.
If you think or would love for your business to grow, you need to register for a trademark. Worst case scenario, your business takes off and grows popular worldwide. People or companies looking for their next big thing see your company, unregistered, and they decide to use your name or design as their own. If they register and sell products, it could take your customers away and running your brand name. You would not have much of a legal leg to stand on, and your hard work would be for nothing.
What Does A Copyright Cost?
If you are in the UK, a copyright will not cost you a thing. As mentioned above, a copyright in the UK is created the moment you create your work. There is no need to register or pay for a copyright in the UK. This particular copyright will only cover you in the UK, though. If you are conducting business outside of the UK and need to get a copyright in a different area, there are generally fees associated with the process.
A copyright in the US can cost anywhere from £63 - £700 depending on quite a few different factors.
Whether you file electronically, or paper file is a significant factor when determining the price:
- It can be three times more expensive to paper file as compared to electronically filing.
- Another factor to consider is what you are copywriting. A single author copyright is not as expensive as a copyright covering of multiple photographs.
How Much Does A Trademark Cost?
Trademarking a name is a brilliant move when in the business world. As you know, it is the best way to protect your brand name. There are fees associated with getting your business name trademarked. It will cost £200 for first class that your trademark will be in, and £50 for every additional class.
When it is time to renew the trademark, you can lower the classes, which will, in turn, lower the renewal cost. The cost to renew is the same as the original cost. If you apply for a trademark within six months after your trademark expires, you will be required to pay £50.
If you are past the six months after your trademark expired, you will need to restore your trademark instead of renewing. The cost restore requires the original fees, late fee, and an additional £100 fee. The £100 fee is non-refundable if, for some reason, your application is denied.
How To Copyright Your Work?
As we mentioned above, you do not need to do anything in the UK to protect your work. Unlike other areas of the world that require you to register your copyright here, you do not need to. You will automatically get copyright protection without any fees or applying. When you create an intellectual work, it is protected.
You can legally put © after any of your work with the date that you created it. It doesn’t matter if it is marked or not, though. Your work is still fully protected. A copyright will protect your work from being copied, sold, or even put on the internet.
While this may not help with your business name, you could copyright your work depending on what business you conduct. If you are an author or artist, this is helpful to know. It is also essential to find out if your work is automatically copyrighted or if it needs to be registered. It would not be very good if you thought you were protected in one market and didn’t realise you weren’t protected in the other.
How To Trademark Your Business Name?
When you want to trademark your business name, there are quite a few steps to take. No need to worry, though; after reading this, you will better understand what you need to do. If you still don’t feel confident tackling the process yourself, you can always hire a trademark lawyer. You already know the trademark fee; now, let’s look at how to go through the process.
The Different Classes
Before diving into getting a trademark, you need to be aware there are many different trademark classes. To be exact, there are forty-five classes for trademarks. Within these classes, there are thirty-four different products and eleven services that are covered. Each class has a specific product or service they cover; you will need to know the suitable class to choose. This also applies when using a name that is close to another business comes into play.
For example, a company uses a name and is registered under a Class 5 – Class 3, meaning they sell medicated or non-medicated soaps for the scalp and body. You want to use their exact name, but you sell internet games, you would file under Class 28 – Class 41.08.
In this instance, both businesses can have a name very close to each other without legal issues. You will both be filed under entirely different classes, and your customers will easily be able to decipher the two names after you search here to find out which class is appropriate for your business. Now it’s time for the next step.
Applying For A Trademark
Before getting a trademark, you must apply to register your trademark. When you register your trademark, we can’t stress enough that it will only give you protection in the UK, not other areas around the world. The application process takes a little bit of time. Expect to wait approximately four months, providing there aren’t any issues.
There are a few things you will need to know before you register your trademark:
- You know you need to make sure the trademark is available and not already registered.
- You can’t change your trademark once you apply
- The application fees are non-refundable
- You will get an examination report within twelve weeks of filing your application
- It can easily take four months to have your trademark register, so plan ahead if needed.
There are not many steps to apply, and it is quite a simple process. You will spend more time choosing a name than you will spend physically applying for a trademark. Let’s look at the steps to apply:
- First, you will go to gov.uk to start the process
- After hitting apply now, you will see a page asking if you are the owner/authorised person or if you are a lawyer/third party representative
- Next, you will be asked if you are ready to apply
- Have you checked if there is a similar trademark?
- Have you found a suitable class?
- If you have ever applied for a trademark, you can retrieve your name and address details from before
- If you haven’t yet, you will need to fill in your information and have your payment information ready
- You will follow the prompts on the screen and in no time have your trademark registered.
Within sixty working days, you should have an update. If there are any issues, you will be notified of what steps you need to take to complete the application.
The Madrid Protocol
Another name that you may come across during your trademark searches is the Madrid Protocol. It is a treaty to protect your business and the reason behind why your trademark can be protected around the world. They protect the right to have an application go through one office, language, and one set of fees in only one currency per their website.
Imagine a simple one-step process to file for a trademark worldwide. You will only need to pay for one set of fees when you register for one trademark. During that simple process, you will be filing for trademark protection in about 124 different countries. You must be a citizen of one of the 124 countries to be able to use their system.
The Madrid Protocol is much more expensive than simply registering for a trademark in the UK. When you think about how much time and money it would cost to register in 120 different countries individually, the price makes more sense. In the end, you will save thousands by using the Madrid Protocol if you would like to have your brand name worldwide.
Will A Copyright Or Trademark Last Forever?
After all the time and effort you put into your work, you may think it will always be yours. That may not be the case, however. As you know, there is a big difference between a copyright and a trademark. Let’s look at how long each one will last before expiring or needed to be renewed.
When you copyright your intellectual works, the copyright will last for 70 years. There are different cases where it is 50 years or for life. After the time is up, it will go into the public domain. Anyone will be able to use it without paying or experiencing any legal repercussions.
If you write a book, paint, or write a musical, your copyright will last 70 years after your death. Films are protected 70 years after the death of the screenplay author, composer, and director. Broadcasts, however, are only protected for 50 years after the broadcast.
After you apply and are able to register your trademark, you may think that is it. Unfortunately, once you have the trademark, you will need to keep up with it; otherwise, your name or design can be once again available for others to use. Once registered, your trademark will last for ten years. You can easily renew it after the ten years pass.
How To Maintain Your Trademark?
Now that you know with a copyright, you are set for, well, life. Let’s look at how to keep your trademark in good standing. As you learned above, a trademark lasts for ten years. To keep your trademark up to date, you need to renew your trademark six months before it expires.
After the trademark has expired, you can still renew it online. There is a catch. Once your trademark has been expired for six months, you will no longer be able to renew it online. You can, however, sometimes renew your trademark by post. If you need to renew your trademark through the post, you can fill out this form and then post it.
If it has been six to twelve months since your trademark expired, you can mail in the form by post. You will need to include a written statement stating while you could not renew your trademark on time. It is entirely up to the Intellectual Property Office whether they like your reason or not. If they do not, you will not be able to renew your trademark.
The fees associated with the cost of the application to renew and any associated postage are not refundable for any reason. If they are not satisfied with your reason, you will not get the money back.
What Is Companies House?
Companies House is an organisation that gathers information from other companies around the world. After they gather the information, they make it accessible to the public for free. They have over four million companies registered and are adding more every year. Their company list is easy to search, very accurate, and gives a great deal of information.
At no cost, you can find information for any company. This is very helpful when you are looking for a trademark that is already being used. You can also use their service to file documents for free.
When searching their database, you can find information varying from the company status all the way to images of documents. You can also find the company’s address which is helpful if you want to license their company name from them.
Do You Need A Trademark Lawyer?
There are no laws stating that a lawyer is needed to file a trademark, but you may want one depending on your business. If you are new to the trademark world, the number of legal questions that come up can be very overwhelming. A trademark lawyer will know the whole process of registering for a trademark. They will be able to handle any issues that may arise.
While it is an extra expense to hire a lawyer, you can’t put a price on the protection of having a lawyer behind you. It also is less of a headache for you. It will make your registration process much smoother. It can also increase the chance of your trademark registration being accepted. This is extremely helpful for those that may have allowed their trademark to expire.
Copyrighting Your Business Name
As you now know, you cannot copyright a business name because it is not your intellectual creation. You will, however, want to register for a trademark instead when speaking of a business name. A trademark will protect you from anyone ever being able to use your name. As long as you renew your trademark every ten years, you will legally be protected. Whether you want to register only in the UK or worldwide, there are sites and services for both.