5 differences between trademark law in the US and UK

Trademark laws and registration processes vary from country to country. Each country has its own laws and procedures for registering and protecting trademarks, and these laws may differ significantly from those in other countries. The United States and the United Kingdom are among the most popular jurisdictions for trademark registration in the world due to their strong legal frameworks, well-established trademark systems, and high levels of protection. However, there are also significant differences between the process of trademark registration in these jurisdictions.


Igor Demcak

Trademark Offices

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the agency responsible for registering trademarks in the United States. The USPTO is a federal agency under the Department of Commerce and is responsible for granting patents and registering trademarks for individuals and businesses. To register a trademark in the US, you can file an application with the USPTO and pay the required fees.

In the United Kingdom, the agency responsible for registering trademarks is the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The IPO is the official government body responsible for granting intellectual property rights in the UK, including trademarks, patents, and designs.

Basis for trademark filing

In the United States, a trademark application can be based on either actual use or intent to use the trademark in commerce. If the trademark is already being used in commerce, the application can be based on actual use. If the trademark is not yet being used in commerce, the application can be based on intent to use, which means that the applicant has a bona fide intention to use the mark in commerce in the future.

In the UK, there is no concept of filing basis for a trademark. Applicants may file a trademark if they already use it or intend to use it in commerce in the future.  However, it is worth noting that a party may seek to invalidate a registered mark after five years if the rights holder is unable to provide evidence of use.

Timing and costs

The trademark registration in the UK takes around 5-6 months after applying on average, provided it has not been objected to or opposed by other trademark owners. In contrast, registering a trademark in the US takes between 12-15 months on average, which can also be extended in case of opposition from third parties.

The USPTO charges a flat fee of $250.00 (TEAS Plus application) or $350.00 (TEAS Standard application) per class of goods or services (What are classes of goods and services?). This is a significant difference from jurisdictions such as the UK, where the second and each additional class tend to cost much less than the first class. The base fee for trademark registration in the UK is £170 for online applications and £200 for paper applications. This base fee includes one class of goods and services. Each additional class is £50.

Opposition process

The trademark opposition process in the US and the UK have some similarities, but there are also some important differences. In both countries, the opposition process allows third parties to challenge the registration of a trademark that has been accepted by the relevant trademark office. However, the specific procedures and requirements can vary significantly. 

In the US, the opposition process is conducted before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), which is an administrative body that hears and decides trademark disputes. The opposition period in the US is 30 days from the date of publication of the trademark application in the Official Gazette, and it can be extended by 30 days upon request. During the opposition proceeding, both parties have the opportunity to submit evidence and arguments, and a decision is made based on the merits of the case. 

In the UK, the opposition period in the UK is two months from the date of publication of the trademark application in the Trade Marks Journal, and it can be extended by one month upon request. The IPO may also set a deadline for submission of evidence, and the parties can request a hearing if necessary. The IPO's decision can be appealed to the courts.

Comparative advertising 

Comparative advertising is a marketing strategy that involves comparing your products or services with those of your competitors to show your superiority. While comparative advertising can be an effective way to promote your brand, it can also raise legal issues related to trademark infringement. Comparative advertising is regulated in both the US and UK, but the specific regulations and standards may differ between the two countries. 

In general, the US has historically been more permissive of comparative advertising than the UK. The Lanham Act, which governs trademarks and false advertising in the US, allows comparative advertising as long as it is truthful and not misleading. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued guidelines on how comparative advertising should be used, but these guidelines are not legally binding.

In the UK, comparative advertising is regulated by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which require that comparative advertising must not be misleading and must compare goods or services that meet the same needs or have the same intended purpose. The UK also has self-regulatory bodies, such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), that monitor and enforce advertising standards.

Igor Demcak
Igor Demcak

Trademark Attorney

Founder & CEO of Trama

7 year experience in IP protection

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