What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a distinctive sign or indicator of some kind that helps in unique identification of the source or the brand of a product or service. It is the ‘brand’ or ‘logo’ distinguishes your product from those of others, giving its holder sole proprietorship over its use.
Any use of the trademark without the knowledge or consent of the owner comes under infringement. It gives the owner the right to sue the transgressor.
Once trademark registered in India under one of the 45 categories, called classes, your trademark becomes a symbol of your brand and protects your brand by restricting other people from using it.
Once acquired, a trademark registered in India lasts indefinitely so long as it is renewed every 10 years.
TM, SM, and ® Symbol
When you start your trademark registration search, you might be baffled by n number of terms being thrown your way. Some of these are TM, SM and symbol ®. We have enlisted the significance and difference between them so that your trademark registration process flows like a breeze.
‘TM’ stands for trademark. It is the assertion of a trademark by a company while the trademark registration process is still under way. It is temporary and has no restrictions of use. It is mostly used for products that fall under classes 1 to 34.
‘SM’ stands for service mark. It is just the service equivalent of Trademark. It is to be used by the owner of a service-based venture while they get their trademark registered. These services fall under classes 35 to 45.
Once a trademark is verified and officially registered, the owner gets the right to use the symbol ®.. This shows legal recognition of the trademark by the concerned authorities. It is the final seal of protection of the uniqueness of your product.
What can be trademarked?
Most of anything can be trademarked in India, with just one condition that they possess a distinctive value. Given below is a list of possible trademarks and conditions for their acceptance if any.
Names – these can be registered as trademarks only if they possess a distinctive character.
Numerals – so long as they possess a distinctive character.
Sounds – musical notations are accepted
Domain names – only is they are being used as goods and services
Monograms and 3-dimensional shapes
Who can apply for a trademark?
There is little restriction on who can apply to be the owner of a trademark or who can do trademark registration search. Any of the following are free to claim rights or trademark registration search to their trademarks-
Companies (both Indian and foreign)
Current Trademark Fees
Trademark rules of India underwent some changes in 2017, which included a new pricing structure for trademark registration. You can refer to the pricing given below, but do remember that pricing for trademark registration can change based on specific requirements and situations.
Classes of goods and services
All goods and services are categorized into 45 classes. The government has a pre-defined list enumerating what kind of product falls under which class. Goods of different kinds are listed from 1 to 34 while services begin from 35 and go on till 45.
It is imperative to go through this list and to make your appeal for trademark registration accordingly.
You may refer to a detailed version and breakdown of the list of classes as defined by law here.
Selecting a good trademark
Selecting a good trademark is very important so trademark search in India is a big deal. A good trademark search in India should be easy to remember by not being too complicated or lengthy. It can be suggestive of the quality but not descriptive of it. And obviously, it shouldn’t be prohibited under the Trademarks Act.
Trademark search in India should be a good and distinctive. Trademark will get your halfway through brand protection already. This is why trademark must be chosen very carefully. The scope of legal protection you can expect to get for your brand will depend majorly on the trademark of your choice.
So, we break down a few guidelines you must follow while choosing a trademark to ensure that it’s one that sets you apart.
Make it distinctive – Make sure you do full research of the existing registered trademarks and take full precaution not to copy any existing trademarks even in the least. It is always a better choice to use terms that are uncommon and will set your brand apart.
Feel free to use arbitrary words for trademark registration which does n’t have much reference to your goods/services, like Apple for computers, Lotus for software, etc.
Use invented words – Feel free to invent your own words to best describe your brand. These are coined words and have never been used. Examples include Spandex, Exxon, Kodak, Viagra, and several other famous trademarks.
They can also be made up by combining pre-existing words. One common example of a made-up trademark is “Microsoft”, which is a combination of ‘micro computers’ and ‘software’.
Use animal or plant names – They are quite memorable and can be associated with a quick mental picture. They can still be distinct while conveying your purpose if used properly. Some common examples are – Apple computers, Ford Mustang, Puma Apparels, etc.
Avoid using Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) and numbers - These aren’t easily recognizable and take a lot of time and money in achieving much brand value. You are better off staying away from them.
Avoid using Superlative words or ones that are laudatory. These include the likes of Premium, Deluxe, Gold, etc.
Avoid using Words that are too descriptive. Using terms like Cooler for refrigerators would fall under this category.
Avoid words that might be a direct reference to the character or quality of the product.These include the likes of – Best choice, Super, etc.
Avoid using common names and surnames. Such names have little distinction and can only be registered if they have already gained recognition and distinction through long use.
Apart from these, to make sure you are absolutely safe from registering trademark in India, you must ensure that your trademark does not hit any ofbelow-mentioned conditions-
Consist exclusively of indications which have become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and established practices of the trade. Have a question about this? Get free legal advice here. (Provide Lawyered link)
Hurts religious sentiments,
Uses national emblems or any other marks which are protected under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.
How to do a Trademark Search
Doing a trademark search in India is pretty easy, for people and professionals who are well-versed with trademarks and their classes. Although you can use the online search database of Indian Trademarks and Patents, it is best advisable to get help when looking to get your trademark registeredin India .Trademark search in India can be made easy by the online outcomes when you go for registering the trademark
If you do intend on searching for trademarks yourself, once you visit the database you will see three types of searches-
A. Wordmark search – The wordmark search allows for retrieving trademarks which use the same word as that of the query entered.
B. Phonetic Search – The phonetic search interface searches for similar sounding trademark words. The trademark office website, however, provides no information in terms of how the system works at the backend. But this is a useful search type as it sometime provides results having a different spelling but a similar sound.
C. Vienna code search – Sometimes, a trademark application can also contain visual elements which may make it difficult to search for similar marks. India being a member of the Vienna convention also follows the international classification of the figurative elements in a trademark.
Now the 2nd step is that, applicant needs to mention a “class” under which applicant is registering his trademark. Classes are a categorization of goods and services. The “class detail tab” is given at top of portal.
Apart from searching this trademark database, use the MCA database through which you can do a name search of already registered companies and also search for Indian trademarks registered abroad under the Madrid protocol.
The Comptroller General’s Office supervises trademark registration in India and other related regulatory matters in India. Its main task is to register trademarks which qualify for trademark registration as per provisions of the Trade Marks Act and Rules, and to maintain the register of trademarks which are already registered. It also acts as a resource and information Centre and is a facilitator in trademarks related matters in India.
Apart from using the online trademark database, you may also request the registrar for an opinion on the distinctive character of the mark. However, such opinion or report is not binding.
Keep in mind that the two essential qualifications for trademark registration are:
It must be capable of being represented graphically,
The mark must be capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one person from those of another.
Therefore, a trademark which is either identical with or similar to an earlier trademark cannot be registered. For instance, an application for trademark ‘Venus’ for chocks for fluorescent tubes was refused on ground that ‘Venus’ mark was already in use in respect of water heaters and coolers and was in existence from 1961.
Any wrongful or unlawful use of a trademark by someone other than the registered use qualified as trademark infringement. Even a deceptively similar mark, if not identical, may lead to trademark infringement. This is so because a registered trademark gives the registered user exclusive rights to enjoy and exploit the mark. A recent example of this is the dating app Tinder alleging trademark infringement against 3nder, an independent app for non-monogamous couples.
Filling a trademark
There are several basic requirements for filling a trademark. Though, they are quite basic, it always helps to consult a trademark lawyer to avoid any fault possible.
The requirements for filling a trademark in India are as follows:
The name, address and nationality of the applicant. In case of a partnership firm, the details of all the partners should be mentioned. Special mention should be made in case any partner is a minor.
The state or company of incorporation must be mentioned in case the venture is a company.
The description of the good or service along with its class as prescribed by the government.
A soft copy of the trademark to be registered.
In case the mark consists of non-English words, a translation of the non-English parts into English must be attached.
A copy of the form duly filled.
If it has been put to use, then the date of the first use of the trademark registered in the country.
In case the applicant wishes to claim priority from an earlier filed convention application, details of this application must also be submitted. These include the application number, filling date, country and description of goods/services.
A certified priority document or a notarized copy of it is also required. If this is not in English, then a copy of its English translation must be made available. A copy of this priority document can be submitted within a month from the date of filling the application.
A power of attorney duly signed by the applicant. This required no legalization or notarization. In India, this power of attorney is executed on a Rs. 100 stamp paper.
Though, the power of attorney is not necessarily required at the time of lodging of the application and can be submitted later on.
Steps for Trademark Registration
You can file your application for registration of trademark in India in the Trademark Office under whose jurisdiction your principal place of business falls. In case, your place of business is outside India, you will have to file your application for registration of trademark in the Trademark office under whose jurisdiction the office of your lawyer is located.
The trademark registration process in India usually takes place through the following steps-
Trademark search – For a trademark search in India you must make sure that your intended trademark doesn’t coincide with any pre-existing trademarks. A comprehensive trademark search is absolutely imperative so that you are completely assured of the validity of your trademark.
The complete extent of the importance of a trademark search and the trademark registration procedure are detailed above.
Trademark application – This is the most crucial part. It is the process of trademark creation and submission.
It is a rather simple process. Make sure you have all the requirements for trademark application mentioned above and are up to date with all your paperwork. This is usually the work of just one day.
Make sure that you follow all the rules listed by the government and track all the new developments of trademark registration in the procedure updated by the government.
As of March 2017, the government updated the number of forms required for the procedure and also updated the price list for registration.
Issuance of receipt – On filling the trademark application, you will be allotted an official receipt with the filling date and number that is allotted to your trademark application, from the registry.
The receipt can take up to five days from the date of registration to be allotted.
Examination by the registrar – The complete trademark application is then formally reviewed by the Indian Trade Marks Office. It is examined to make sure the trademark can be registered in India, does not bear any similarity with existing marks, is not obscene and doesn’t hurt any religious sentiments.
The public is given a notice of your Trademark application. This ensures that the trading public whose rights might be adversely affected by your mark’s registration gets adequate opportunity to voice their concerns.
In case the application is not opposed or the relevant time period expires, the trademark registration application is allowed and a Letter of Acceptance (TLA order) will be issued. Following this, the trademark will be published in the Trademarks Journal in India. Now, if there is no opposition within 4 months from the date of publishing in the Trademarks Journal, the trademark registration certificate will be issued.
Hearing before the registrar – In case an objection is raised, an official examination report will be issued.
If you want to overcome the objection, you must file a written response or evidence of the distinctiveness of your mark. Following this, an interview or hearing with the examiner will be scheduled.
These hearings are usually between two parties, the applicant and the objection. The registrar my also require applicant to file an affidavit to testify the fair use of such a mark to the objecting person.
This objection can be extended up to a period of approximately 3 months.
Once the registrar is sure of the settlement of the matter, the publication process as described above will ensue.
Trademark registration – Overall, the tedious process of trademark registration in India takes about 20-24 months, even in cases where no objections are raised. Although, the application number that is allotted is valid from the date of application itself.
Renewal – A registered trademark is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of application. This Trademark registration needs to be renewed every 10 years, and can be for an indefinite period of time, by paying the renewal fees.
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