Registering your organisation’s name as a trade mark allows you to stop someone else using the same or a similar name in a comparable field to yours. This can be a very powerful legal right, and one that can often be obtained easily and cheaply. However, many charities do not see it as a priority.

BWB's in-house team of Trade Mark Attorneys is the only one of its kind which specialises in helping charities. Here, they debunk five of the most common myths surrounding trade marks and charities.

1 Charities don't need trade marks

They do! Your charity's name or brand(s) can be one of, if not its most, important asset. For any charity seeking to raise funds from the public, the public’s ability to recognise your charity’s name and give their support to their chosen charity is crucial. Having a trade mark can help avoid confusion and prevent others from taking unfair advantage of your name.

2 Won't Companies House or the Charity Commission help?

Registering your organisation as a limited company or with the Charity Commission gives you little in the way of enforceable legal rights against wrong doers. It may allow you to block others registering under the same or a very similar name, but it will give you no power to stop someone actually using your name. Having a registered trade mark will give you that power.

3 Charities can't enforce rights in their names

It is true that the courts don't like to see legal actions involving two charities. But a good trade mark lawyer will be able to use your registered rights as a platform to obtain the result you need by other means. For example, it may be possible to take down the website of someone infringing your rights by complaining to their internet service provider.

4 Descriptive names can't be registered

It's true that the law does not like giving organisations monopolies over ordinary English that describes its activities. Many charities’ names denote an organisation, not just what it does - and names of this character can be registered as trade marks. Names like Royal National Institute for the Blind, The Football Foundation and Cancer Research UK are all capable of being protected by trade marks.

Also, even where your charity’s name is descriptive, you may be able to obtain a trade mark where your name has acquired distinctiveness. Citizens Advice Bureau is one such example.

5 Trade marks are expensive

A basic UK trade mark registration costs as little as £750 plus VAT for an initial 10 year period, and once registered, could be in force forever, provided you continue to use the registered name, and pay the ten-yearly renewal fee. There are also ways of achieving overseas registration without it costing the earth.

Can we help?

If you have any questions about the above, or want to find out more, don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our trade mark specialists. They are used to helping charities of all kinds, small or large, local or international, with their brand protection, and are always happy to offer an initial consultation free of charge.

Mathew Healey photo

Mathew Healey

Head of Trade Marks

+44(0)20 7551 7637

View full information about Mathew Healey
Catharina Waller photo

Catharina Waller

Trade Mark and Patent Attorney

+44(0)20 7551 7701

View full information about Catharina Waller

Posted on 25/07/2016 in Legal Updates

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