By registering your intellectual property you are safeguarding a future revenue source for yourself.
When you’ve worked diligently to formulate an inspiring business concept or a creative product design, you must get copyrights for it. Why? Because crooks can steal that well-thought concept of yours and all your hard work can go in vain.
People spend years drafting that one perfect business strategy or product design that’ll change their lives forever. Now, imagine how you’ll feel if someone steals your ingenious concept and starts using it in their name.
A patent is basically a license that you obtain in order to establish yourself as the sole producer, user and distributor of your invention or business plan. When you register, you get the exclusive rights of using or selling your intellectual property, however, you cannot obtain a patent for ordinary items which we use on an everyday basis.
TELL ME ABOUT THE TRADEMARK REGISTERING PROCESS
In order to obtain copyrights, you need to visit the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) of the country you are residing in. By registering your intellectual property you are safeguarding a future revenue source for yourself. Once you get the copyrights, only you can use your design/ concept for the first five years, which means you’ll be the sole manufacturer of your product design/invention and no one else can sell an edition of your design in the market during this time period.
And after five years, you again need to attain a license from the IPO stating that others can use your design to create their own products but they have to reimburse you for this. When someone uses your original ideas, they can’t create products which are exactly like yours. They can only use your design/ idea to create their own products which are not carbon copies of your original product. For instance, there are tons of products on the market which are compatible with iPhone, but they are not created by Apple. Apple can’t stop companies from creating these applications or devices unless they breach any of the copyrights held by Apple.
HOW TO REGISTER FOR A TRADEMARK
How can you tell whether a product has already been trademarked or not? You will see the alphabet R in a circle on top right corner of its name. This R is the ‘registered trademark symbol’ which signifies that only you or your organization has the legal rights for using your company’s registered name, logo, etc. It basically prevents other organizations or individuals from using your brand’s identity to promote their products or services.
You can also put a TM (trademark) symbol with the name of your products or services, but that doesn’t really give you any legal authority or any exclusivity of any kind. You need to register for trademark rights if you want some concrete safety measures for your brand’s identity. But before jumping at the prospect of getting a trademark, make sure you are actually going to use that name/company logo or else you’ll lose all trademark rights associated with it. For example, Gucci lost all trademark rights for using their GG logo since they had not used it for a long time.
There are a lot of things you need to understand before trademarking your intellectual property. Sometimes even tech giants like Apple fail to prevent companies from using a brand name or logo which is very similar to their trademark. For example, when a German café chose to trademark its logo Apfelkind, which means ‘apple’s child’, Apple initially objected. But in the end, Apple had no choice but to withdraw the objections.
In another instance, Apple locked horns with a record company Apple Corps (The Beatles’ record company) and it was a 30 year long legal battle. As a result, Apple Corps agreed to stay out of the computer industry while Apple promised to stay out of the music industry. But in 2003 when Apple launched iTunes, Apple Corps was unable to sue the tech giant successfully. These instances are perfect examples of how important it is to properly trademark your brand’s identity.
HOW TO SUSTAIN YOUR TRADEMARK ON AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
When the internet was not so popular, trademarking your brand on an international level wasn’t so important, but in today’s scenario, it certainly is. If the internet was not around, what difference it would have made if your company’s name is being used by fifteen other companies in different parts of the world? But since we are living in an age of globalization, you just can’t afford something like this to happen. Even if you are selling cars and some other organization with the same name is selling dolls, you’ve got a sort of a competitor for yourself.
DO YOU REALLY NEED TO REGISTER INTERNATIONALLY?
Trade-marking is often associated with brand equity. Yes, trade-marking your brand certainly brings along some amount of commercial value, but how to determine whether you need to enforce trade-marking on an international level or not? It’s simple. If your brand has an international market, which means there are consumers or potential consumers of your products and services in other countries as well, then you need to think about trademarking on a global scale.
With the ever growing potential of social media and e-commerce, you might be able to expand your business to other parts of the world in the coming future. So do give safeguarding your brand’s future a serious thought.
It’s a little complex to understand the rules and regulations associated with trade-marking. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that different nations follow different sets of regulations; however, it is beneficial in the long run.
According to the US laws, if you’ve acquired trademark rights for a logo but you aren’t using that logo, your rights can be revoked or you might have to face a trial against a company who wants to use that logo for their brand. Trademark rights in most of the countries are quite different from the US version.
HOW TO ACQUIRE TRADEMARK RIGHT IN OTHER COUNTRIES
If you feel that your business has the competence of capturing overseas markets, register for trademark rights in all those countries where your prospective customers reside. In order to do that, first register your brand in your own country and then you’ll be able to register internationally. There are two ways of registering globally – through your country’s PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) or you can take assistance from a third party facilitator (for example, an attorney from another country).
There are a few ways to acquire trademark rights in multiple countries in one go –
THE MADRID PROTOCOL – Register through Madrid Protocol and you’ll be able to acquire trademark rights in 86 countries including a majority of ‘industrial nations’ across the globe.
COMMUNITY TRADEMARK – CTM allows you to enforce trademark rights all over the European Union. You can register with CTM by filing a single application and by paying a one time fee, instead of applying separately for each nation.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE TRADE-MARKING OVERSEAS
Before filing for a trademark, you need to conduct a clearance test, in order to determine if any other company has already acquired trademark rights for the name/logo which you want to use for your venture. If you’ve found identical brand names or company logos as yours and still choose to file for a trademark, you can end up facing legal troubles.
When registering for a trademark in a foreign land, speak with the locals about your trademark. Make sure it doesn’t sound like slang or foul words in their language.
Also, you need to protect your brand’s identity on the internet from cyber-squatters by registering a domain name with CTLDs (Country Top level Domains). Registering with CTLDs like .au or .uk helps you in protecting your trademark rights in other nations.
COMMON MISTAKES PEOPLE FACE WHILE FILING FOR TRADEMARKS
One of the most frequent mistakes people make while registering their trademarks internationally is that they don’t verify if any other company has already registered for a very similar or exactly the same trademark as theirs.
Another important aspect you need to think about before applying is your brand strategy. Before filing for a brand name, envision how you are going to use it in the future and for what. For instance, if you currently have a brand of ice cream parlors, but in the future, you are also planning to introduce chocolates, you need to pick a general name that would suit both ice creams and chocolates.
Another common slip-up relates to geography. Your brand name should not be geographically misleading. For example, if you are an Australia based winemaking company, you can’t export your wine to France with the name “champagne” since in France, champagne has to be made within the boundaries of a particular geographic area.
Your brand name and logo should be distinguishable and should represent your brand values. Consumers should be able to identify your brand by just looking at it. So, it’s advisable to avoid common names and generic logo designs. It is highly recommended that you take the assistance of a trademark attorney before starting with the entire process.