A trade or service mark is a distinctive sign which identifies certain products or services as those produced or provided by a specific person, enterprise or a group of persons/enterprises allowing the consumer to distinguish them from goods or services of others (for a more detailed explanation see http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/trademarks.html).
In some countries, protection of a mark can be acquired through registration or use. In others, for most trademarks, you have to necessarily register the trademarks if you want to protect them. Even where you have the option of protection without registration, that is, based on use of the mark, it is always advisable to register the mark to obtain a better or stronger protection.
If you wish to acquire trademark protection for your SME by registration then you must file an application in a national or, where such possibility exists, a regional trademark office. The Office will then, once the required fees have been paid, examine the application. There are a number of reasons for which your application may be rejected. In practice, applications are most frequently rejected on the grounds that:
- there is a likelihood that consumers will confuse your mark with a mark already on the register or applied for or an unregistered well-known mark;
- your mark only describes a product or service or a feature of the product or service;
- your mark consists of a geographical term which is misleading or should not be monopolized by a single enterprise;
- your mark violates public order or morality; or
- your mark consists of or contains without authorization an element which is identical with or an imitation of a protected official sign, armorial bearing, flag or other emblem, or hallmark of a state or intergovernmental organization.
Where the trademark law of a country provides for an opposition procedure, an application will be published after it has been examined and any interested persons will be provided an opportunity to object to the registration of the mark if they consider their rights likely to be affected by its registration. The Office will then make a decision based on the evidence provided by the two parties and this decision will usually be subject to an appeal.
Depending on national laws, the initial period of registration is not less than 7 years (generally 10 years). However, unlike other industrial property rights, the registration of marks can be renewed upon payment of a renewal fee indefinitely. See also "Conducting Trademark Searches".
For more information on Trademarks see Frequently Asked Questions.