Your brand name or your company name is nothing less than your business’s identity. “Trademark” is just another way of referring to a brand. Nowadays, consumers base their decisions on the brand names and their reputation for buying a product or a service. Brand names add value to the business and have become a means to communicate with the consumers at large.
What if your competitor in the market uses a similar brand name and steals a part of your customer base duping them into believing that the products or services offered by them are the same as you? It would not only harm your business but is also a legal wrong.
Various companies especially start-ups or small-medium enterprises forget to register their trademarks. One of the major reasons is the misconception that registering a company or buying a domain name would be enough to keep the competitors out of line. Another is the fact that they believe incurring cost on such a thing can be kept for a time when they face a legal trouble.
Importance of Registering a Trade Mark
Here are a few reasons why registering a trademark is of high importance while running a business:
With the market place being crowded with loads of companies and brands it is difficult to distinguish. The best measure for attracting customers and to stand out is by having a unique trademark for your brand and to build your business’s reputation over it.
Trademarks do not come with an expiry date. Once a trademark is registered, it can be renewed every ten years and shall last as long as your brand stay or even more!
It is primary to ensure that your brand is protected against competition. If the brand you are working to build for so long has already been registered as a trademark by someone; you lose not only your business but also the privilege to exclude others from using the trademark. Securing registration of your trademark shall protect your brand, and gives you the provision to prevent someone using similar signs and riding off the back of your business.
Registration of a trademark is a one-time cost. The time period and process of registering a trademark has also been relatively reduced. It takes about 6 months to a year for processing the trademark application. Once the trademark is registered, it is valid for ten years after which it can be renewed timely paying a minimal cost every ten years.
A registered trademark is an asset for the business or the company and brings home goodwill. The value of the trademark grows with the growth of the business. A trademark can be sold, purchased or used as a security for obtaining a loan just like any other tangible asset.
Procedure for trademark registration
The procedure to register a trademark involves filing a trademark application, examination, publication or advertisement, opposition, registration and renewal. It is important to engage a trademark attorney for the process to make it easy and reliable.
Stage 1: Search for a trademark
You must choose your trademark wisely. There are various different kinds of trademarks available. Once decided, it is important to conduct a public search on the trademarks database available on the on the online portal of the Trade Marks Registry to ensure that there isn’t another trademark which is either identical or similar to your trademark.
The search reveals the kind of trademarks already available in the market, either registered or unregistered. It also tells whether you have a competition for the same trademark.
Stage 2: Filing a Trade Mark application
An application for the registration of a trademark can be filed in multi-class or a single class depending on the goods and services the business deals with. Form TM-A is required to be filed either online through the IP India website or manually at the Trade Marks Office depending on the jurisdiction.
The trademark application has to be supported with various documents and a complete description of the trademark for which registration is sought. If you are claiming prior use in the trademark, then a user affidavit needs to be filed supporting the usage along with its evidence.
Stage 3: Examination of the trademark application
After an application is filed, an examination report is issued by the Examiner after a thorough examination of the application in accordance with the provisions of the Trade Marks Act. The Examination report may reveal some objections either, relative, absolute or procedural. An examination report is issued within a month of having filed the application. A response to the same is needed to be filed within a month of receiving the report stating the arguments and evidence to waive off the objections, if any.
Stage 4: Post-examination
After a response to the examination report is filed, the Examiner may appoint a hearing if he/she is not satisfied by the response filed or the objections are not met. After the hearing, the Examiner may accept the mark and forward the application for publication in the journal or reject the application.
Stage 5: Advertisement
After accepting the application, the trademark is advertised and published in the Trade Marks Journal for a period of 4 months. The objective behind the same is to invite the public for filing an opposition against the registration of the mark. This Trade Marks Journal is available on the Registry’s website and is updated every Monday.
Stage 6: Opposition
After a trademark is advertised in the Journal, any aggrieved party can file a notice of opposition against the registration of the advertised trademark. The notice of opposition has to be filed vide Form TM-O within four months of the mark’s advertisement in the Journal. If the applied for mark is opposed, then the due process of law is followed which includes filing the counter-statement, evidence and hearing in order to get the mark registered.
Stage 7: Registration
This is the final step where the application proceeds to registration after overcoming the objection and/or the opposition against its registration. In case no one opposes the registration of the mark during the advertisement period, the mark is issued an automated registration certificate within a week’s time. The registration is valid for a period of ten years after which it needs to be renewed within a stipulated time period.