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Trade Marks « Definition IP

Trade Marks

Trade marks protect brands…

Trade marks can protect names, words, phrases, logos, symbols and even sounds or shapes. You can have both registered (usually indicated by ®) and unregistered trade mark rights (usually indicated by ). Trade marks enable customers to identify goods and services as coming from a particular company, and can act as signifiers of characteristics or qualities associated with that company’s goods or services. Trade marks can  therefore play a key role in advertising and promotion of a brand.  Trade marks are registered in respect of the goods and services on which they are used.


Existing trade marks…

Unlike patents, trade marks do not need to be kept confidential before an application is filed, and you can file a trade mark application to protect a mark that is already in use.

The application process…

Once you file your trade mark application, an examination report will typically issue.  Depending on the Office where your application has been filed, your mark will be examined on “absolute grounds” and possibly also “relative grounds“.  “Absolute grounds” require your mark to meet certain formal criteria; namely it must be distinctive (in order to enable it to distinguish your goods and services over those of other vendors), not descriptive of your goods and services, or characteristics of those goods or services, and not offensive (no swear words please!).

Relative grounds” take into account prior-registered trade marks – your mark may not be registerable on relative grounds if it is likely to cause confusion with an earlier registered mark.  Confusion tends to arise where an identical or similar trade mark is registered for identical or similar goods or services.  If the examiner finds no cause for objection, or if he does so and the objections are overcome (for example by argument or amendment of either the mark or the listed goods or services) then your application will be published. Publication starts an opposition period during which third parties may object to the registration of your mark.  If no opposition is filed, your trade mark will be registered.  The registration process can typically take anywhere from 2 months – 2 years.

…and filing abroad…

As your trade mark does not have to be kept confidential, there is no absolute time-limit within which foreign trade marks must be filed.  However, a priority system exists which allows a foreign trade mark, filed within six months of your initial trade mark application, to benefit from the filing date of your initial application.  This can give you precedence if a conflicting trade mark is filed by a third party in the intervening period.  Foreign trade marks can be filed individually in the countries of interest, or via a centrally administered system for facilitating registration in multiple jurisdictions.

How long do they last?

Once granted, renewal fees must be paid to keep your registration in force – however, trade marks can typically be renewed indefinitely.