A trademark can be defined as “a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors.” It is used as a badge of origin to help identify products and services and the owner can be a business organisation, an individual or any legal entity.
Trademarks are often found on labels, packages, vouchers or the product itself. You will often see them on company buildings for the sake of corporate identity. Trademarks can take many forms, such as: colours, sounds, logos, shapes, slogans, words or a combination of these elements.
Trademarks are registered for specific goods or services known as “classes”. There are 45 classes in total, 34 classes for goods, 11 classes for services.
It is possible for trademarks to be similar or even identical as long as they are in a different, unconnected class.
Trademarks cannot however be too detailed or descriptive and must not contain common surnames, geographical names, current registered company names or anything that implies royal patronage.
Within the EU, trademarks must be registered in order to obtain protection. Trademarks can last indefinitely, however, they need to be renewed every 10 years in order to stay registered.
A trademark may be designated by the following symbols:
- ™ - the trademark symbol, which is the letters "TM" in superscript for an unregistered trademark, used to promote or brand goods.
- ℠ - the letters "SM" in superscript, for an unregistered service mark, used to promote or brand services.
- ® - the letter "R" within a circle, for a registered trademark (which must be used in some countries.)