Everyone wants its business to be unique, however you do not just want it to be unique for yourself, you want your customers to feel that your brand, name, products or business is unique. One of the most important ways of achieving this is to trademark your goods and services.
We will discuss the trademarks from international legal point of view. Most of these principles are applicable worldwide whether you want to protect your trademark on national, regional or international level.
What is trademark?
Trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing your goods or services from those of other competitors. It can be nearly anything that can suit this definition such as word, image, drawing, video, animation, symbol, logo, three dimensional character or object, sound or even colors shades.
If you manage to register your trademark it means you have been granted exclusive rights to your trademark within the certain territory. Trademark registration is always performed by some authority – state office. Long story short, registered trademark allows you to exclude others from using your trademark without your prior consent. This exclusivity is however granted only within the scope of goods or services for which trademark is registered.
You can trademark name of the book saga, drawing depicted on the book cover, game character name, game character 3D model, sound of your company signature tune, icon in your application, special name of your unique product and so on.
Possibilities are nowdays nearly endless and therefore you must select proper strategy to protect at least what is essential for your business.
In most countries, in order to be protected by local laws, trademark must be registered by the state authority. However some countries have established limited protection for unregistered trademarks if the certain conditions are met.
The trademark protection does not automaticaly arises once you create your sign as it is in copyright protection system. But in some cases copyright protection may also apply as the various sign or at least their expressions meet the criteria of copyrightable work.
As the territorial principle applies here, the protection is only granted within the country in which you have registered your trademark. Exception from this are the regional trademark systems where your trademark registration is valid throughout the territory of all member states of that regional union. And yes, that suddenly means you are not protected by your Japan trademark in the Brasil, unless you obtain international designation for both countries or register national trademark in both of them.
Trademark systems exist on international, regional and national levels. On international level there is Madrid system through which you can seek trademark protection in multiple countries throughout the world with a single application.
On the regional level there is for instance European Union system administered by European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). These allow you to register your trademark in certain region with a single application and that can save you a lot of money and time in the process.
If you are willing to protect your trademark on the national level, most countries of the world have established national trademark registration systems which are mainly administered by the national industrial property offices. If you wish to browse certain country trademark law, you can check it out here.
Once your trademark is registered you have exclusive right to authorize everyone else for using your trademarked goods or services in business manner. That includes selling or distributing your trademarked goods or services.
The registered trademark protection in most countries of the world lasts for 10 years from the date on which your trademark application was filed. However, in most countries you can renew it for additional 10 years. This can be done repeatedly so it means the trademark protection can be potentially valid for indefinite amount of time.
There are various ways of monetizing your registered trademark. Two main options are that you either use your registered trademark to get competitive edge in your market area and second is that you sell your registered trademark to someone who can use it in his business.
Another very popular option is to license your registered trademark to someone else and gain passive income regularly.
Some conditions for trademark registration may vary from country to country, but these are the main principles applicable nearly everywhere in the world.
The sign you are willing to register as trademark shall be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one competitor from those of other competitors and it shall also be able to clearly determine precise subject matter of the scope of protection.
Futher requirements are that trademark shall consists of distinctive and non-descriptive sign. Many states and unions have a lot of exclusions from what can be trademarked.