For a business to be successful, building a strong brand identity is essential. The business name, logo and names of products are not just identifiers; they are valuable assets that distinguish you from competitors and create recognition among your target audience. However, without proper legal protection, these assets are vulnerable to infringement, dilution, and misappropriation, potentially jeopardising a business’s reputation.

Protecting your brand

Your brand is more than simply a name or a logo; it represents the qualities and values you want associated with your products or services. As a result, protecting your brand against unauthorised use or imitation is crucial for maintaining trust and ensuring the long-term success of your business.

Every business has valuable assets, including products, inventions, knowledge, and designs – and having intellectual property (IP) rights means you can legally protect these assets. According to the Scottish government, IP rights can apply to the names and logos of your products and brands; your unique products or inventions; innovative aspects of your products; the design or look of your products; written, audio or visual content.

The main benefits of legally protecting these assets are:

  • Preventing confusion and misrepresentation

Securing trademark protection for the name of your business and its products, as well as the company logo, gives you the exclusive rights to use them in connection with your goods or services. This then prevents competitors from using similar names or logos that could potentially confuse customers, or even mislead them into thinking they are purchasing products or other offerings from your brand.

  • Safeguarding against infringement

Without legal protection, brands are vulnerable to infringement from third parties who may attempt to capitalise on the back of your audience and reputation. Completing trademark registration provides a legal framework for enforcing your rights and enables you to take action against any unauthorised use (or infringement) of your brand assets.

  • Enhancing marketability and value

A legally protected brand is more attractive to investors and potential partners (as well as possible buyers), as it demonstrates your commitment to protecting your intellectual property rights and preserving the value of your business. Plus, from a commercial perspective, trademark registration can increase the marketability and perceived value of your products and services, helping them stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Steps to legal protection

In Scotland, the process of legally protecting your business name and other assets typically involves obtaining trademark registration through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The process of securing a trademark is typically as follows:

  • Conduct a trademark search

Before filing a trademark application, conduct a comprehensive search to ensure your proposed names and logos do not infringe upon any existing trademarks. This involves searching the IPO’s online trademark database and other relevant sources to identify any conflicting trademarks that could potentially obstruct your registration.

  • File a trademark application

Once you have confirmed your desired trademark is available, the next step is to file a trademark application with the IPO. This application should include a clear representation of your business name, logo, or product name(s), as well as a detailed description of the goods or services to be associated with the trademark.

  • Examination and publication

Once you have filed your application, it will be examined by the IPO to assess its compliance with legal requirements and potential conflicts with any existing trademarks. Businesses should allow four months for the application to be assessed. If it successfully meets all necessary criteria, it will be published in the IPO’s official journal for a period of opposition; during this time, third parties may oppose the registration of your trademark(s).

  • Registration and renewal

If no oppositions are filed during the opposition period, your trademarks will be registered and granted protection, initially for ten years; this can then be renewed indefinitely upon payment of renewal fees. Registered trademarks allow businesses to use them exclusively in connection with the specified goods or services, thereby providing legal recourse against infringement or unauthorised use by third parties. Plus, with a registered trademark, you can put the ‘®’ symbol next to your brand – to show that it’s yours and warn others against using it.

Remember, always get legal advice from a specialist when considering intellectual property.

Copyrighting new ideas

Similarly, if you have an idea for your business, be it a product, design, system or process, it is important this too remains under your sole control. In this instance, there is no copyright on the ideas themselves, only the expression of them. The experts in this field of work are patent attorneys; they are slightly separate from solicitors, though there are specialised solicitors who can help with patenting clients’ products. If the idea is worth protecting, it may be an expensive business to get robust patents – but more costly not to.

A temporary fix is to write down your idea and email it to yourself, so the date of creation is automatically captured. However, such homemade copyrighting is not the best or the permanent answer. Certainly get it notarised, but if it looks like you may have a winner on your hands, be sure to get in front of a solicitor or patent attorney before it’s too late!

As a business owner in Scotland, investing in legal protection for your brand is crucial for the future of your company. By taking proactive steps to protect your intellectual property and secure trademark registration for your business name, logo, and specific product names (or copyright for any new ideas and innovations) you can safeguard your brand’s integrity, reputation, and profitability.



John Roberts is a Partner and Director at Austin Lafferty Solicitors. John has been with the firm for almost 20 years, with experience in all areas of business law.