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The importance of a trade mark if you’re selling online

March 28, 2012

Before online shopping became the norm, fake goods were widespread but because you could see and feel the products before buying them you were able to ascertain their providence (or at least try to).  This is not the case anymore.  Anyone can sell on eBay or Amazon, for instance, and pass off fake goods as the real thing.

Companies selling online without a registered trade mark are therefore at a high risk of unscrupulous competitors stealing their identity to sell counterfeit products.

Peter Lord, Director of Professional Golf Europe (PGE), recently found himself in this position. “We manufacture our goods in Japan and China so we were already very aware of the potential of rip-off  goods but we were still surprised when we saw a Chinese supplier trying to sell some fake Vega branded golf accessories on eBay,” said Peter.   “However, thankfully, once we’d alerted eBay to our trade mark they removed the offending items from sale, but without it we wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on”.

Major portals including Amazon and eBay will honour trade marks but the company must prove they have legal rights of ownership, which almost always require it to be registered.

Professional Golf Europe has protected its brand worldwide to ensure it can stop any infringements quickly.

UK companies who are manufacturing in China should also be aware of a growing problem in the country with local companies spotting a logo or brand and registering it as a trade mark in China.  Once they have done this, they then attempt to stop the genuine goods leaving China, holding to ransom the legitimate company until a deal is brokered.  Make sure you do not leave yourself open to this scam.

Essential Information about Trade Marks

  • A trade mark lasts for 10 years with the right to renew thereafter
  • Registering your name with Companies House does not give you trade mark protection nor does owning the domain name
  • A made-up name is one of the easiest ways to a successful trade mark application
  • Don’t choose a descriptive name
  • Trademark registration is done by class: goods and services are sub-classified into many different classes. Two companies can own the same trade mark as long as they are registered for different products.
  • Registering a trade mark in a country outside the EU is a not an overly complex or costly process (for China the majority filed by Trade Mark Direct are from £400 – £800) and once your application has been made it has priority over any subsequent applications, mischievous or otherwise.  It currently takes one to two years to register a trade mark in China.
  • You can also protect your name throughout all of the Member States of the European Union as a Community Trade Mark with just one application.

This article was kindly provided by Mark Kingsley-Williams, founder of Trade Mark Direct.