How to register a trademark in the UK

Our step-by-step guide is the simplest way to understand the trademarking process, including how much it will cost and what mistakes to avoid.

Our experts

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Registering a trademark is the most effective way to protect your business if a competitor tries to steal or imitate your branding. It’s also a great statement of intent for any new business, setting out your stall with a registered identity.

Many entrepreneurs incorrectly assume that registering a business on Companies House – or even owning a domain name – means that their brand is protected. In reality, applying for a trademark is a separate process, and one that takes several months to complete.

The registration process can feel confusing to navigate. Third-party providers often take advantage of this uncertainty by charging high rates to oversee it on your behalf.

But, submitting a trademark is actually a straightforward procedure with the right instructions.

Below, our experts have kept things short and sweet, to distil everything you need to know into a step-by-step guide that’s easy to follow. By the end, you’ll be able to lawfully register your unique brand design for the lowest-possible cost.

UK trademark registration step-by-step

We’ve broken down the registration process into five painless steps for you to go through:

  1. Define your trademark
  2. View the trademark register
  3. Select your trademark classification
  4. Submit your application
  5. Address any feedback

How long it takes to complete your filing will differ depending on your unique business attributes. However, most applications take around four months to conclude.

1. Define your trademark

Firstly, you need to determine exactly what you want to trademark. Be warned that the parameters are quite loose.

According to the gov.uk website, your request can cover words, sounds, logos, colours, or a combination of all.

Graphic designer drawing sketches logo design.

It cannot contain:

  • Generic descriptions of the goods or services it will relate to. For example the word ‘milk’ cannot be a trademark for a milk manufacturer.
  • Misleading or incorrect labels. For example, the word ‘vegan’ for a food item that contains animal products
  • Use generic images associated with your trademark. For example, a photo of a diamond for jewellers.
  • Swear words or pornographic images 
  • Be too similar to state symbols i.e flags or hallmarks

Can I apply for multiple trademarks?

If you have similar versions of your trademark, you need to make what’s called a ‘series application’ for up to six marks with the stipulation that the differences between each asset must be minor.

2. Explore the trademark register

Next, you need to check that a similar brand design does not already exist – otherwise your application will not be deemed original and will fail at the first hurdle.

Do this easily online by searching the trademark register on the gov.uk website. Look for an existing logo by either a trademark number, owner, or a keyword search.

Search trademark register

Trademark register search option

What if my trademark already exists?

Should you find that your design has already been used, there are several options available:

  1. Check if it’s still in commercial use. If a trademark hasn’t been issued publicly for five years or more, or is listed as expired, then appeal to replace it with your own.
  2. Ask the owner to give you their mark. You’ll need a letter of consent from the owner to prove they’re happy for you to take or buy the trademark off them.
  3. Change your classification (if possible). Businesses that operate in a different industry are permitted to have similar trademarks.
  4. Edit your trademark. To avoid this scenario, it’s a good idea to have a couple of different branding options available so you don’t get stuck.

3. Find your trademark classification

Now it’s time to find your branding classification – definable as the class of goods and services that your brand will cover.

The government has designed a specialist trademark searching tool to make this step easier.

Search trademark classes

Online trademark classification search page

There are currently 45 classifications across a range of industries: 34 covering goods and products and 11 covering services.

Groupings range from chemical products, such as cleaning sprays (Class 1), to personal hygiene, covering things like shampoos (Class 5).

If you think your brand is applicable to several categories then you need to register in all classes your company will operate in.

4. Submit your application

Having gathered all the information you need, you are ready to input the data into an online form.

Register online with the UK Intellectual Property Office to start the procedure, or send the TM3 form to apply via post.

Standard submission form trademark

Standard trademark form submission page

Applicants can either click to enter your details or, if you’ve filed a trademark before, retrieve your previous details via your email address.

You’ll then be asked to enter some information about the mark you want to claim for, including design details, classification, and your examination type (Standard or Right Start).

5. Address any feedback

It takes two weeks for a report on your application to come through. If there are no objections, the form will then be published in the Trade Marks Journal for two months.

During this time, anyone is able to challenge your application.

Applications cannot be concluded until all disputes are resolved. To respond to an objection, you can either withdraw the application, defend it, or try to contact the objector directly to resolve the issue.

Once there are no more issues then, congratulations! Your trademark will be registered within two weeks of the end of the publication period.

However, it’s worth knowing that, even if you successfully register a brand design, your licence is still open to challenges if another firm attempts to register a similar logo.

Should I use the trademark symbol?

Although you don't have to use a trademark symbol, it is a good idea to enforce a trademark once the application is approved.

The ® symbol or abbreviation “RTM” will show that your mark is on a protected register and may deter someone from imitating it.

Trademark registration costs

There are two key forms involved in the trademark filing process: a standard application form and a renewal form. Both are located on the gov.uk website.

First time application

If this is your first time registering a trademark, you’ll pay £170 for a standard trademark application done online (£200 by post).

Intellectual property is not an area where you should scrimp and save.

Another option is to use the ‘Right Start’ application. This is essentially a ‘practice’ method for those who are uncertain that their submission will pass.

Using the Right Start method you’ll pay £100 initially. Then, you’ll be sent a report telling you if your application has met the rules. If it does, you’ll pay another £100 to submit your official version.

TitleCost
Trademark standard application£170 online (£200 by post)
Trademark 'Right Start' application£100 upfront (+£100 upon confirmation)

Trademark renewal

If you’re renewing an existing licence, you’ll pay £200 for a one class business, plus £50 for each additional class.

Trademarks need to be renewed every ten years.

TitleCost
Trademark renewal (one class)£200
Trademark renewal (per extra class)£50

Can you register a trademark for free?

There is no way to legitimately register a trademark for free.

If you see any third-party provider claiming to offer this service for zero charge then ignore them. Intellectual property is not an area where you should scrimp and save.

Big brands, including Apple, have paid a heavy price for not considering trademarking laws.

Skipping the process invites several risks including the seizure of your products or marketing materials. Compared to this outcome, a trademark registration is indisputably good value.

Should you pay for a third-party trademark registration service?

legal counsel law solicitors

Most UK solicitors offer a trademarking management service for a fixed fee. Costs typically range between £600-£1,000 (+VAT) to register a trademark in one class.

If more than one class is required this can cost as much as £150 (+VAT) per additional class.

That means that on average, using a third-party registration service will cost you up to £830 more than a DIY, online approach.

We’d only recommend using a solicitor for very large companies or startups with complex intellectual property needs. For example, if you have invented a completely new product and are planning to file a patent application.

Trademark registration FAQs
  • How much is it to trademark a name in the UK?
    It costs £170 to submit a standard trademark application in the UK online, and £200 by post. You’ll also need to pay an extra £50 per class if you want your brand to be registered across multiple industries.
  • Does a trademark need to be registered?
    Registering a trademark is not a compulsory aspect of starting a business. However, if you don’t go through the official application process in the UK then your brand will not be protected from litigation or misuse.
  • How long do trademarks last in the UK?
    You’ll need to renew your trademark every 10 years on the gov.uk website. This can be done in either the six months before your licence expires, or the six months after.
Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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