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How can I check if a franchisor has registered its brand name as a trade mark?
A franchisor may have registered its brand name either as a Community Trade Mark with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market or as a national trade mark with the UK Intellectual Property Office.To check if the brand has been registered and which option the franchisor has gone for, use the online database at the UK-IPO. The screen shows the differing searches available to you and allows you to search either by the brand itself or by proprietor. Once you have found the brand you are looking for, it is important to check that the ‘Status’ specifies it is registered.You will also need to check the nature of the trade mark, as not all registrations will give the franchisor the same protection. A stylised trade mark (where the trade mark is shown in a particular type of script or font and/ or combined with a logo) will provide less protection. In order to give the broadest possible protection, the brand should be registered as a ‘word mark’ in plain black font. You may also want to consider if any stylised trade mark registered looks the same as you have seen the trade mark actually used by the franchisor and other franchisees.However, you should not just rely on this search, as there could be other non-registered rights not shown in the UK-IPO search. Also carry out additional searches through Google and Companies House and check if domain names have been registered by the franchisor. Trade marks are a complicated area and it is advised you show the results of your searches to your lawyer, so that they can advise you on the protection that has been obtained by the franchisor.
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