What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a sign, symbol or a business identity which helps businesses to distinguish/differentiate between goods or services of one business/undertaking from those of the others. A trademark may consist of a device, label, name, signature, word, letter, numeral or any combination thereof, or a container for goods. The life span of a trademark is 10 years, which is renewable after every 10th year.
What Does Trademark Protection Offer?
Trademark protection ensures that the owners of marks have the exclusive right to use them to identify goods or services, or to authorise others to use them in return for payment. The period of protection varies, but a trademark can be renewed indefinitely upon payment of the corresponding fees. Trademark protection is legally enforced by courts which, in most systems, have the authority to stop trademark infringement. Trademarks promote initiatives and enterprises worldwide by rewarding their owners with recognition and financial profit. Trademark protection hinders the efforts of unethical competitors, such as counterfeiters, to use similar distinctive signs to market inferior or different products or services. The system enables enterprises and people with specialised skills to produce and market goods and services in the most equitable market conditions, thereby facilitating international trade.
What Kinds of Trademarks can be Registered?
Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, letters and numerals. They may consist of drawings, symbols or three-dimensional signs, such as the shape and packaging of goods; provided they are used to identify the commercial source of goods or services. In addition to identifying the commercial source of goods or services, several other trademark categories exist: collective marks are owned by an association whose members use them to indicate products with a certain level of quality and who agree to adhere to specific requirements set by the association. Such associations might represent, for example, accountants, engineers or architects. Certification marks are given for compliance with defined standards but are not confined to any membership.
How Extensive is Trademark Protection?
The BIPA Trademarks Office maintains a Register of Trademarks containing full application information on all registrations and renewals; which facilitates examination, search and potential opposition by third parties. Trademark protection is territorial, therefore one is only protected in the jurisdiction where protection was applied for.
National, Regional and International Applications:
National: all national applications are administered by the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA).
Regional: ARIPO administers a regional trademarks system under the Banjul Protocol. An applicant can thus file a single application seeking protection in a number of designated countries.
International: WIPO administers an international registration system for trademarks called the Madrid System. The Madrid System enables an applicant to submit a single application in designated countries in which the applicant seeks protection.