Trademarks are one of the key assets of modern business.
Trademarks are used to prevent others from using a mark that is similar to yours in a way that would mislead customers about the origin or quality of your goods or services.
What is a trademark?
A legally registered symbol, term, phrase, logo, design, or any combination thereof that distinguishes and identifies the source of goods or services provided by a certain company or individual is referred to as a trademark in the business world.
A trademark, often symbolized as ™, is a special kind of sign used to identify and protect unique products, services, or businesses. Think of famous trademarks like the golden arches of McDonald’s or the bitten apple of Apple Inc. These marks help us instantly recognize and trust the source of what we’re buying or using.
Types of trademarks
Trademarks come in various types, and they can be categorized based on their distinctiveness or the elements they protect.
Word Mark: A word or phrase that consists solely of letters, numbers, or both. This is the most common type and it gives very broad legal protection. For example, “Google” is a word mark. Slogans and Taglines are also registered as Word Marks.
The way how Google trademark is officially registered
Logo Mark: A visual symbol, design, or logo that represents a brand. The Nike swoosh is a well-known example of a logo mark.
Combined Mark: This type combines both text and a logo or design element. Examples include the Starbucks logo with both the word “Starbucks” and the mermaid graphic.
Sound Mark: A unique sound or jingle associated with a brand, such as the Intel jingle or the NBC chimes.
Color Mark: Protection for a specific color or color combination used in branding. For example, Tiffany & Co. holds a trademark for its distinctive blue color (Pantone 1837 | #81D8D0)
Trade Dress: This includes the overall appearance and design of a product, its packaging, or the décor of a retail store. Trade dress can be registered as a trademark if it is distinctive and non-functional. The Coca-Cola bottle’s shape is an example of this type of trademark. Almost always Trade Dresses are registered as Three-Dimensional Marks.
Motion Mark: Protects moving images or animations that serve as a brand identifier. For instance, the animated MGM lion logo is a motion mark.
Certification Mark: Used to indicate that products or services meet certain standards or qualifications.
Non-Traditional Marks: This category encompasses marks that don’t fit neatly into traditional categories. It includes holograms, scents, and taste marks, although these can be more challenging to register.
What you want to protect and how you wish to represent your business will determine what kind of trademark you select. To fully protect their intellectual property, many businesses take advantage of a combination of these trademark types.
Registered trademarks and unregistered trademarks
Unregistered trademarks are somewhat protected in several countries under common law. However, compared to registered trademarks, this protection is typically more restricted. It may be more difficult to enforce unregistered trademarks and need to demonstrate that the mark became distinctive thanks to use.
Why it is important to register your brand as a trademark
Registering your brand as a trademark is crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, it provides legal protection and exclusive rights to use your brand name or logo. This prevents others from using a similar mark that could confuse consumers or dilute your brand’s identity.
Trademark registration also bolsters your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness, making it easier to attract customers and partners. It helps establish a clear and distinct market presence, setting you apart from competitors. Additionally, registered trademarks are assets that can appreciate in value over time, potentially becoming valuable intellectual property assets for your business.
Moreover, trademark registration facilitates easier enforcement of your rights, as it provides a legal basis for pursuing legal action against infringers. It also extends protection beyond your immediate geographic area, allowing you to expand your brand nationally or internationally.
In summary, trademark registration safeguards your brand’s identity enhances its marketability, and shields it from unauthorized use, ultimately contributing to your business’s long-term success and growth.
Benefits of registering your trademark
Registering a trademark for your business offers several significant benefits:
- Legal Defense: Registering a trademark gives you the sole authority to use the mark in connection with your products or services. You can prevent others from using a mark that is similar to yours in a way that might mislead customers or weaken the identification of your company thanks to this legal protection.
- Brand Recognition: A registered trademark contributes to consumer trust in a product or service. It conveys that your goods and services uphold specific standards of excellence and are affiliated with an established brand, which may improve client loyalty.
- Increase Company Valuation: Trademark registrations are precious assets that may increase in value over time. They can provide new revenue streams and possible financial gains to your company by being licensed, franchised, or sold.
- Legal Recourse: If your trademark is registered, you have a solid legal foundation on which to hold infringers accountable for their actions. This can involve delivering cease-and-desist letters, taking legal action, and requesting monetary compensation for infringement, all of which can assist in safeguarding the reputation and market position of your business.
Trademark process step-by-step
The trademark registration process can be complex. Keep in mind that trademark laws and procedures can vary from country to country, so it’s important to check the specific guidance prepared by Pocket IP first. Here is a simplified overview of the trademark registration process:
Researching Existing Trademarks
Researching existing trademarks is a crucial step before attempting to register a new trademark to ensure its uniqueness and avoid potential legal issues.
Utilize Pocket IP online trademark search tools, which provide a user-friendly interface for conducting preliminary searches.
Before starting the search, clearly define the trademark you want to search for, including any specific words, logos, slogans, or designs that make up your mark. Consider variations or similar marks you might want to explore.
Start by conducting a basic search using keywords, phrases, or design elements that are part of your proposed trademark. Be as broad as possible to capture potential variations.
Consider attentively the search results and gauge any potential risk connected to comparable trademarks. If competing marks are discovered, speak with a trademark lawyer to decide the best course of action, which may entail changing your trademark or doing more investigation.
Do not forget to conduct a phonetic search to identify trademarks that sound similar to your proposed mark. Look for synonyms, translations, or alternative spellings that could pose a conflict.
Keep track of the dates, sources, and any conflicting trademarks you find in your search results. Should you decide to proceed with trademark registration, this material may be helpful.
If you’re uncertain about the search results or the potential for conflicts, it’s wise to consult with a trademark attorney.
Filing the Trademark Application
After you ensure your trademark is unique, distinctive, and not likely to infringe on existing trademarks, you can start to prepare an application for submission.
Identify the class or classes of goods or services your trademark will cover. Each jurisdiction has a classification system, so choose the one(s) that best aligns with your business.
Collect all required information and documentation, including:
- Your trademark in the desired format (e.g., text, logo, or a combination).
- A clear description of the goods or services associated with your mark.
- The name and address of the applicant (individual or entity).
- Power of attorney if you decide to act via trademark attorney.
- Examples of using the brand if it is required in this jurisdiction.
- If applicable, the priority claim, which is the date of any foreign application from which you’re claiming priority.
Fill out the trademark application form provided by the relevant trademark office. These forms may vary but typically include sections for the above information.
File the completed application along with the necessary filing fees. Payment methods and fee structures can vary by jurisdiction.
Application Review and Examination
Upon receiving a trademark application, the trademark office initiates a formal review to ensure that all required information and documentation are included. They check for completeness and accuracy in the application form, including the correct identification of the applicant, the proper description of goods or services, and the appropriate trademark class.
The trademark office examines the application to confirm that the chosen classification (trademark class) and the specification of goods or services align with the established classification system. If there are discrepancies or errors, they may request clarification or amendments.
The trademark office conducts a search in its database to identify existing registered trademarks and pending applications that may be similar to the proposed mark. This search aims to determine whether the new trademark could cause confusion with existing ones.
The Office assesses the likelihood of confusion between the proposed trademark and existing marks. They consider factors such as the similarity of the marks, the relatedness of the goods or services, and the potential for consumer confusion.
Also, the trademark office evaluates whether the proposed mark meets this requirement or if it’s too generic, descriptive, or common.
Publication and Opposition
In some jurisdictions, after a successful examination, the trademark application is published in a public database or gazette. This allows third parties to review the application and potentially file oppositions if they believe it infringes on their rights. The publication period usually lasts for 2-3 months.
During the opposition period, third parties who believe that the proposed trademark may infringe upon their existing trademark rights can file an opposition. Oppositions can be based on various grounds, including the likelihood of confusion with an existing trademark; similarity of the marks; prior use and rights in an unregistered trademark (common law trademark); descriptiveness or generic nature of the proposed trademark.
Those who wish to oppose a trademark application must typically file a formal opposition with the trademark office within the prescribed time frame and pay a relevant official fee. This involves submitting the grounds for opposition, evidence, and any supporting documentation.
The trademark office will analyze the opposition after it is submitted and determine if it has substance. There may be a chance for the trademark applicant to react to the opposition. Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction and the difficulty of the matter, the opposition procedure may involve discussions or court cases.
The trademark application may be rejected or changed to address the objections identified by the opponent if the opposition is successful and the trademark office supports it. If the opposition fails, the trademark registration process may continue.
Registration and Maintenance
The trademark office makes its final decision about the application following the conclusion of the examination procedure and any applicable opposition period. They will authorize registration if there are no legitimate oppositions and the application satisfies all conditions. They may reject the application if there are problems or objections, or they may ask for more details or modifications.
The trademark receives a registration number and registration date from the office along with a registration certificate in electronic and print form (if applicable). The owner does not have any legal recourse to defend trademark rights until after obtaining a trademark certificate.
A trademark is typically protected for ten years following the application or registration date. To avoid losing the trademark, it must be renewed every ten years by paying the appropriate official cost.
How much does it cost to trademark a business?
The cost of registering a trademark for a company can vary greatly based on several variables, such as the jurisdiction in which you seek trademark protection, the type of brand you are registering, the number of classes, claiming priority, etc.
The filing of a trademark application is subject to fees at trademark offices. The complexity of your case, the attorney’s experience, and the particular services rendered can all affect the cost. A flat fee or an hourly rate may be charged by trademark attorneys.
With Pocket IP you can check the official fees before filing and request filing an application with a flat service fee.