1. Be proactive - New organisations, in both the private and third sector, spring up all the time. Existing organisations re-brand or change their name on a regular basis. Search the internet to see who is using a similar name, slogan or logo as you. Check the Companies House website and the Intellectual Property Office website, as well as using general search engines.

2. Don’t rely on Regulator approval - It is a common misconception that having your charity’s name registered with the Charity Commission or Companies House will afford you adequate protection from others using the same or similar name. However, the rules that these two regulators apply when accepting a charity’s name are not the same as the rules relating to intellectual property.

3. Register your rights - Many smaller charities choose not to incur the expense of registering their intellectual property rights. However, it is much easier to enforce your rights if you have a registered trade mark, design or patent (as appropriate). Many trade mark and patent attorneys offer special rates for charities or bulk discounts. Don’t forget that as long you meet the necessary criteria you can register:

    • Words, logos, colours and even colours as trademarks;
    • New inventions as patents; and
    • The shape and packaging of products as registered designs.

4. Mark your products and marketing materials clearly - Not all intellectual property rights are capable of registration. Copyright is one such example. To assert your copyright, ensure that you mark your written materials with your charity’s name, the date and a copyright statement and symbol. Keep a written record of the creation process in order to show that your materials are your own original work.

5. Seek professional advice - If you suspect that a third party is infringing your intellectual property rights, seek professional advice before contacting them. Do not be tempted to send out correspondence to the alleged infringer without taking legal advice because you could face a counterclaim or a claim for unlawful threats.

For more information

For further details or advice on intellectual property matters please contact Rebecca Ward. If you would like to find out more about our work with charities, please visit our website.