Over the course of the last few years, we have seen a record increase in the number of UK trade mark applications filed for financial services (which fall in class 36). An overview of the number of trade marks filed and registered is set out in the table below:
The influx of financial trade mark applications appears to be down to start-ups and established companies innovating to stay ahead of current trends. These companies appear to be shaking up the industry by utilising fintech innovations, block chain technology as well as smart-phone applications that are being used to drive banking and investment opportunities.
An example of a start-up company shaking up the industry, whilst protecting its trade mark, is Monzo. This company offers a mobile-only bank. Consumers use their debit cards as normal but are able to see and control their expenditure quickly through a mobile phone application. Monzo is one of the so-called “challenger banks”. These are completely different banks. They are paper-less and borderless, often using just a smartphone app. The benefit of these types of apps is that they offer real-time push notifications. Users can quickly categorise their spending, freeze cards if lost, review their expenses and spending habits. They also allow consumers to save money on cross border transactions.
Other examples include N26, the German based bank that plans to launch in the UK in early 2018, and Zopa, a world first in peer-to-peer lending (directly match people looking for a loan with people looking to invest).
Class 36 also covers real-estate services and so the increase is also partly due to changes in the way consumers are renting accommodation, for example short term leases (like AirBnB) and co-working office spaces that allow for increased collaboration, networking and the exchange of skills.
Companies are investing heavily in these areas, and are using technology to offer new products and services. Those types of businesses need trade mark protection to ring-fence their brands and offer them protection against copycat or counterfeit activities. Securing trade mark registration early ensures that the chosen brand name is protected before launch, and that it remains distinctive enough for consumers to be able to seek it out. Trade mark registration will also help when it comes to seeking investment. Having protection gives the start-up something to sell, licence and control.
The increase in the number of UK trade marks covering financial services is positive. Having looked into the owners of these trade marks, the influx of non-UK applicants suggests that the UK is still attractive to foreign inventors and investors, even post-Brexit.
For any financial start-ups developing their own brand, it is certainly worth considering trade mark protection prior to launch.