Choosing a trademark for your product or service is an exciting time – rather like naming your baby so you want to get it right as the name will be an important part of defining the way that product or service is seen in the years to come. Here then are some tips to get you started.
- Think of your ideal customer – the mark you choose must appeal to your customer base as it is their attention and loyalty you are looking to attract.
- What does the mark say about you? – It should be something that reflects the image you are trying to promote and must be credible and constant in relation to that image.
- Sustainability – how long do you envisage the product or service being used? If it is something that will satisfy a passing fad this may not be important but if this is something that is intended to remain in use over many years or form the basis for follow on goods and services it must be something that will not quickly appear dated.
- Distinctive – it is a legal requirement that a mark be distinctive in order to be protected as a trademark but it is also good business sense as you do not want a potential customer to mistakenly go to a competitor because they got the names muddled. You can check whether similar marks have been registered by consulting the UK trademark register at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmtext or for Community trademarks at http://oami.europa.eu/ows/rw/pages/QPLUS/databases/searchCTM.eu.do but it is also sensible to check the name you are thinking about on various search engines to see if there are unregistered marks or other unexpected uses of the preferred name already out there. A quick way of checking availability is to check on the availability of domain names and then see if any of those that are already in use are for similar businesses. None of these checks is foolproof but together should give you some confidence
- If you are planning to sell internationally do check whether your preferred name has an unfortunate meaning in the language of any of your key markets. “NOVA” sounded a fun name in Northern Europe with a suggestion of being new but in Spain a car called “no va” – “no go” was unlikely to prove a winner.
- Make it easy – choose a mark that is short and simple to say and spell so that it can easily be found and recommended. Don’t make your domain name a typing test.
- Use open vowels – words with open vowels such as AVIVA and ASTRA tend to feel positive in English and are unlikely to be misheard.
- Take care with logos – if you are using a logo check that it looks good whether it is reproduced on a giant poster or in miniature and can be photocopied in black and white without losing the clarity of the image.
- Words are better than images – if you have limited funds you should usually concentrate on registering word marks over images as a registration of a word gives you protection against any formatting or font of the word but an image is judged only for overall “look ” and likelihood of confusion.
- Build your brand – just giving something a name is only the start of the process to develop its maximum value so make sure you give the baby a good launch and continue to invest in nurturing it through the years in how you use the mark and develop the brand with a carefully structured long term marketing plan.
Patricia Barclay of Bonaccord
Patricia Barclay studied law at Edinburgh and Oxford Universities. After a number of years with Pfizer in the UK and US she became General Counsel of Vernalis plc, a post that she subsequently held at the privately owned multi national Ferring Group and at Solvay Pharmaceuticals. As such, she has been involved in decision making at the highest level in very different organisations. Find out more here.