What can and cannot be registered as a UK trade mark

If you are seeking to register your business as a trade mark, you may be unsure as to what can and cannot be registered as a trade mark.

If you are seeking to register your business as a trade mark, you may be unsure as to what can and cannot be registered as a trade mark.

In accordance with UK trade mark laws, “a trade mark is any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings”. To sum up, the trade mark you apply for must be unique and can include the following:


Arguably the most common type of trade mark is a word mark. This type of mark will give you protection for the words you wish to use and are generally considered to be the strongest type of mark. Examples of famous word marks are Apple, Pepsi and Nike.


A logo/figurative mark will give you the rights to the logo registered as a whole. This can sometimes be a combination of both images and wording. Logo marks are considered to be weaker than word marks as the protection will encompass the image as a whole rather than both the word and image.


A sound mark is regarded as an unconventional mark. This is because unlike word and logo marks, a sound mark is not always capable of being represented graphically. Therefore, the likelihood of a sound mark being successful in its registration is quite rare. Examples of successful sound trade marks include the McDonald’s ‘I’m Lovin’ it jingle and  the NBC news chimes.


Although the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office state that colour are capable of being registered as trade marks, the chances of obtaining a colour trade mark is extremely rare as seen in the lengthy Nestlé S.A. v. Cadbury case.

What cannot be trade marked

Offensive Marks

If a trade mark application is offensive or uses inappropriate words or images, it will be refused by a trade marks examiner during the 2 week examination process.

Descriptive Marks

A trade mark should not directly be descriptive of the goods and services for which registration will be sought. For example, ‘bready’ for a bakery or ‘pizzaz’ for pizza restaurant.

Misleading Marks

Applications that are misleading to consumers are not registerable as trade marks. For example, using the words 100% child friendly on a product that is not child friendly.

Three Dimensional shapes

3D shapes that are not directly associated with the trade mark are not registrable, for example/ a shape of footballs that is used for the sale of footballs.

Flags, hallmarks of special emblems

Both the UKIPO and WIPO state that images which resemble or imitate any flag, state symbol, hallmark or special emblem are not registrable as trade marks.

It is important to ensure that your mark is registrable prior to making an application. This is because if a trade mark application is refused, the application fees are non-refundable.

If you are unsure on whether your brand could be trademarked, contact the experts at Trademarkroom today where we would be happy to assist you!

Sena Tokel

share this Article

Recent Articles