Trade marks are signs that serve in the trade to distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of another. Examples of trade marks include:
- Words, letters and numerals
- Personal names and slogans
- Designs or logos
- The shape of goods or their packaging
- Colours, sounds and smells
- Any combination of the above
In essence, anything which is distinctive can serve as a trade mark.Trade marks may be registered or unregistered. Generally speaking registration creates stronger rights by providing an assumption of validity. With an unregistered mark, in order to prevent use of a similar mark, it is necessary to establish that the owner has built up a reputation in the mark and that the use complained of would be liable to confuse or deceive the public. To ensure the mark may be protected, there are a number of criteria that must be met. These include:
- The mark should not directly describe the goods or services;
- The mark should not be misleading;
- The mark should be sufficiently distinctive to enable it to be registered;
- The mark should not conflict with another earlier registration or some other intellectual property right
Having chosen a trade mark it is then essential to make sure it is free for use in the territories of interest, and it should be registered in those territories. To maintain and build value into a corporate brand, you should also ensure that the trade mark is used properly and is not altered. In addition, watching for conflicting marks and taking action where appropriate, can help prevent dilution of the value of the mark.
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