On leaving the corporate world in 2001, Jackie set up a copywriting business called Comms Plus. It meant ‘Comms’ for communications, and ‘Plus’ for that little extra. However, once she started networking, she found everyone thought she was in telecoms.
That wasn’t the only problem. She found there was another Comms Plus who did marketing in the food and drink industry. There was also a Comms Plus Ltd who did telecoms.
There was no risk of confusing her business with the telecoms business, but there was a risk of clients confusing her with the marketing agency. In fact, she used to get their phone calls because her website was ranked higher on search engines than theirs. She always passed their callers on, although she’s not sure if it ever happened in the opposite direction.
The marketing agency was bigger than Jackie’s business, and had been established for longer, but they hadn’t protected their intellectual property. For example, they called themselves ‘Comms Plus Limited’ even when they weren’t.
Jackie took legal advice and registered the trademark to protect her in case the marketing agency accused her of ‘passing off’ (pretending to be them), and took her clients, her profits and a fine.
Initially, it seemed Staples.com would object, as they had an online service called Staples.com Plus. No human being would confuse the two, but the computer thought the wording was too similar.
She appealed, and the Staples.com lawyers agreed she could use the name as long as she promised not to sell stationery online.
Today, the other Comms Plus has ceased trading, Jackie is now operating under her own name, and the telecoms business is still thriving.
Business-owners often get confused about trademark law.
It used to be the case that the business using the name first had the rights to own it, but now it is the business who first registers it officially.
Putting the letters TM in subscript after the name of your business, brands or products doesn’t actually do anything to protect you in law. It merely shows your intention to register the trademark. In that way, it might deter other businesses from using the same name.
Your name is only protected properly once you have the R-in-a-circle registered trademark – to get that, you should apply via the Government’s patent office.
We can help you with that.
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