THIS™ IS EXPENSIVE, THIS™ IS ART, AND YOU PROBABLY CAN’T AFFORD THIS™ BRAND TIE DYE GIFT CLOTHING!

Best AnswerAsker’s Choice

I agree with the previous answer, that you are worrying too much. No-one is going to bother “stealing” your brand unless you are successful, so concentrate on that first.

However, I’ll try to explain some of the basics, although this is a very complicated area of law.

Copyright exists automatically without any need to register it, and without any need for a notice or a (c) sign. All your “registration” has done is to provide some evidence of a date your logo was created – so you can prove this later. But in practice this is fairly easy to demostrate if the matter is ever disputed.

However, not all things can be copyright – copyright is limited to original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works; sound recordings, films or broadcasts; and typographical arrangements. A brand name (eg Cadburys or Tesco) is not a “work” for these purposes so cannot be copyright. However, a logo or a t-shirt design is an artistic work, so will be copyright provided it is original.

A trademark is a way of registering a brand name or a logo to prevent others from using it in a similar way to you. Registering a trademark is expensive and once done you need to protect the mark. If someone uses your mark and you don’t take action to stop them you risk losing the mark on the basis that it is no longer distinctive to you. This protection is itself very expensive.

Trademarks are limited to particular categories of goods or services. EG if you sell biscuits you could register the name “Ritz” as a trademark. But this will not enable you to prevent someone else using the name “Ritz” for their hotel chain. Also, each name and logo needs a separate registration with all the associated cost. EG you would need to register the name “My Brand” as well as your logo, and if you have several versions of the logo each of them separately. Trademarks can only be registered for brands that are in use or that you are intending to use within 5 years. And they need to be renewed every 10 years. And there are some quite complex rules about what can and cannot be registered as a trademark.

The (r) symbol has no meaning in the UK, nor is there any need to use the letters TM next to your logo. However, this does indicate that there is a trademark and it gives a hint that you intend to protect it.

Whether you register a trademark or not you can protect your brand through laws known as passing off. This gives you protection from anyone who uses your brand name to harm your business or confuse your customers.

Obviously all copyright and trademarks have an international angle. In general, a work that is copyright in the UK will have similar protection across the world, and vice versa. Trademarks are not so global, but you can register marks to give protection across the EU and you can register marks in other countries as well. But unless you are actually going to trade in those countries there’s no need to worry about whats happening there.

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