Ever heard of the word “Trademark”? Yes, I know you are thinking it’s a mark that has to do with trade or business [Chuckle]. Well there’s a lot more to it and that’s exactly what this piece seeks to reveal. You may have seen the letters “TM” by a business name and wondering what it means. So what has trademark got to do with an entrepreneur?
A trademark (TM) is a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to goods for the purpose of indicating a connection, in the course of trade between the goods and some person having the right either as proprietor or as registered user to use the mark. Such a mark could include a name, word, letter, numeral, brand, heading, label, signature or any combination of these. In Nigeria, Trademark is registered at the Trade Marks, Patents & Designs Registry, Abuja which is under the Commercial Law Department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Functions of Trademark and Benefits of registration
- Trademarks operate as indicators of trade or source from which goods and services come or are in any way connected.
- Trademarks symbolise the qualities expected by consumers from certain goods/services and guarantees that goods measure up to such expectations.
- Trademarks are useful tools for investment and advertising.
- Without trademarks, consumers could be deprived of a means of assessing the quality and standard of goods and services.
- A registered trademark provides protection for the owner of the mark by ensuring the exclusive right to use it for the purpose of identifying goods or services, or to authorise another to use such mark in return for payment.
- Trademarks promote initiative and enterprise by rewarding owners of such marks with recognition and financial profit.
- Registered Trademark will also help to check unfair competition caused by imitation and counterfeit production of goods.
- Trademark when registered, ultimately promotes trade both locally and internationally.
Registration of Trademarks
Not every trademark can be registered. Before a trademark can be registered, it must meet certain requirements in line with statutory provisions such as distinctiveness, invention, representation in a special or particular manner – in the case of a name of company, individual or firm; capacity of mark to distinguish goods connected with it in the course of trade from other goods. Furthermore, a mark will not be registrable if it would likely deceive or cause confusion; or is against law or morality or scandalous in its design. There are various classes for registration of trademarks covering various aspects of business. A trademark is usually registered under a particular class and if so, it would be available for use in another class except where the applicant employs defensive registration mechanism which will block the trademark in every class. Examples of classes are: Class 33 – alcoholic beverages (except beers); Class 25 – clothing, footwear, headgear; Class 12 – vehicles, apparatus for locomotion by air, land or water.
In the concluding part, we’ll explore ‘Effects of registration of trademark, Duration and Renewal of Trademark as well the the procedure for registration of trademarks in Nigeria.