Trade marks

Last updated: 20 April 2017

A trade mark is something that distinguishes your business, products or services from others. Most people refer to their trade mark as a brand.

It could be:

  • a word or phrase
  • a picture or shape
  • a colour
  • a sound
  • packaging

It could be all of these things, or a combination of some of them.

Types of trade mark

Trade marks can be registered or unregistered.

Registered trade marks

If you register your trade mark, you'll be able to:

  • take legal action against anyone who uses your brand without your permission, including counterfeiters
  • put the ® symbol next to your brand – to show that it's yours and warn others against using it
  • sell and license your brand

Visit GOV.UK for information on how to register a trade mark, including:

  • what you can and can't register
  • how to apply
  • what happens after you apply
  • registering a trade mark overseas

Unregistered trade marks

Even if your trade mark isn't registered, you might still be able to stop someone using a similar trade mark to yours.

Visit GOV.UK for information on unregistered trade marks.

Search for a trade mark

Before you apply to register your trade mark, you should check if a similar trade mark to your brand already exists and who owns it.

You can go to GOV.UK to search for a trademark.

Register a trade mark

You can register a trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office's online service. Once registered a trade mark can't be changed.

There are Standard and Right Start application services. Use the Right Start service if you want the Intellectual Property Office to assess your application and tell you if it meets the registration rules.

Search for trade mark decisions

Searching for trade mark hearing decisions or intellectual property disputes could help you:

  • decide whether to object to a trade mark
  • prepare for a hearing

Track a trade mark

Sign up for alerts to:

  • check the status of your UK or international trade mark registration
  • track other people's applications – when they registered or opposed, or when details change

Renew your trade mark

Trade marks must be renewed every 10 years.

You can renew a trade mark in the 6 months before it expires and up to 6 months afterwards. Visit GOV.UK to renew your trade mark on the Intellectual Property Office online service or by post, and find out the costs of renewal.

Update or surrender your registered trade mark

You must tell the Intellectual Property Office if:

  • any of the details held in the trade mark register need updating or correcting
  • you want to give up your rights to your trade mark
  • you want to appoint a representative or agent

Visit GOV.UK for more information on how to update or surrender your registered trade mark.

Give notice of your intention to oppose a trade mark

If you want to oppose a trade mark application, you need to tell the Intellectual Property Office.

This is known as giving 'notice of threatened opposition'. This will give you one extra month to file your opposition.

To oppose a trade mark you'll need to know:

  • the trade mark application number
  • whether it's a UK or International (UK) application
  • one of the trade mark classes applied for

You must apply within 2 months of the trade mark application first being published in the online trade marks journal.

You can check the trade marks journal on the Intellectual Property Office website for information on:

  • UK trade marks
  • international trade marks that include the UK
  • changes and restrictions to trade marks

Visit GOV.UK for the full list of information about trade marks.

This information applies to the UK only. Find out how to protect your intellectual property abroad.