Can I register my company name as a trademark?

Before answering this question, let’s first ask a different one: Do I need to register a trademark in the first place?

Even without a trademark, a company has limited protection from people copying their business name. Under the common law rules of ‘passing off’, a business is protected from other businesses who might want to copy its name or another branding, if that copying would lead to confusion in the eyes of the public.

However, it’s not always so simple to rely on that background law, so it is certainly more useful to a business owner to register his own trademark, which will give much more protection against others who may want to copy his name.

Generally speaking, a business can register a trademark, (which could be their company or trading name, or the name of a product or service they offer) if the name they want to register is unique and distinctive.

‘Unique’ means that it’s not being used by anyone else in the same industry or business area. And ‘distinctive’ means, generally speaking, that the name you want to register is not a commonly used name or phrase. Even if your business name is a commonly-used name or phrase, it can still be registered as a trademark if it’s not common in your industry or business area.

An example of this would be the trademark Apple. The word ‘Apple’ can’t be registered as a trademark by someone who is selling fruit, as it’s a commonly used word in their industry. However, someone in the electronics industry, or the music recording industry, would be able to register the name ‘Apple’ (not anymore, of course!) because this word is distinctive in that industry.

There are 42 different trademark classes which cover all types of goods, services, products, and industries. When you’re registering a trademark you can choose any one area (or even, all 42) to register in. But you should bear in mind that you have to pay for registration in each class, so it’s advisable just to pick the areas that are most relevant to your business or product.

It's possible to register a trademark that covers just the UK, or a European Union trademark that covers all the countries within the EU (which currently still includes the UK). You can also register trademarks in the US, and in other countries, too.

If you want to know if your trademark or tradename is registerable, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts, free of charge.