In the age of globalization, patents and intellectual property assume great significance. To help readers get an idea of patents, Mint presents an occasional column on the subject.
What is the distinction between trademark and trade names, trade slogans, logos and brand names?
A trademark is a distinct symbol. It must be able to attract the attention of the consumers. It shall not describe the quality, efficiency or the efficacy of the goods over which it is affixed. A trademark is a mark that can be printed on the label. It can be interwoven into the fabric. It can be embossed or can be incorporated in a transparent medium. The label on which the trademark is printed may be attached to the article or it may be engraved on the machine. Till recently, a trademark was permissible only to manufactured goods and not to services. Now, though, it can be obtained by such institutions as trading establishments, banks, insurance companies and those dealing in medical, legal, auditing and consulting services. These institutions can print the trademark on their advertisement material including their letterheads, bills and so on.
As the trademark becomes popular, it is the trademark that sells the goods and services. In course of time, it is the mark which identifies the goods and their manufacturers. It facilitates easy identification of goods ordered and supplied with trademark. Firestone means tyres; Binny means textiles; Amrutanjan means a pain balm. Similarly, Lintas means advertising. Thus, the advantage in having a trademark is that the goods earn a market by themselves and the market grows as the trademark becomes more and more popular.
Trade names are the names given by the merchant of his own name to the establishment he runs. Badrinath Shah & Co. is a trade name of the shopowner called Badrinath Shah. Such names are not registered as trademarks. Trade slogans are those which a trader adopts as an advertisement slogan. “Always the best” is a slogan adopted by BPL-TV as a byline under its name. “The company that cares” is a trade slogan adopted by Tata Chemicals. These slogans are also not registrable because there is nothing striking to the eye which attracts the consumer. Trade logos no doubt resemble trademarks. If they are offered for registration, they may get a registration. A logo is a symbol. The two protective palms covering a flame is the logo of the Life Insurance Corp. of India. Similarly, Firestone has a pictorial representation which can be called a logo for purposes of common understanding but it having been registered as a trademark is counted as a trademark. It means logos, when registered, can be called trademarks. So long as they are not registered, they shall be treated as logos only.
A brand name is a name applicable to a class and type of goods which having become popular are called brand names. Since they are not distinct but common, they are not registrable as trade marks.
How long will it take to secure a trademark?
To obtain a trademark, it will no doubt take considerable time dependingupon the efficiency of the office to which the application is made.
The procedure is a little lengthy. The application requires the assistance of a specialist to decide on whether a proposed trademark is distinct to the eye of the beholder and sounds new and novel to the ear. Then, a search has to be made to find out whether there are already registered trademarks similar to the proposed one. The classification into which kind of activity or trade the proposed landmark would be fitted has to be decided. For this purpose, a search into the existing trademarks has to be conducted. This process has been made easy to a certain extent thanks to computerization. Before an application for trademark is made, the applicant should look around the market to find out whether any other person is already using the same or similar trademark. After the application is made, the trademark registry will undertake the search and raise objections, if any. When the objections are satisfactorily addressed, and if the registrar is satisfied, he will grant registration and then publish this information in the trademark journal. If after the publication any objections are received, the applicant, the objectors and all other interested parties may be heard and thereafter the registrar confirms the grant if he overrules the objections. If this process in any event goes on for more than 48 months or otherwise appears to be delayed, the applicant may make an application at any stage to expedite the proceedings by paying a separate fee for it. There is, however, one danger in this procedure. If the applicant fails to attend to the objections and if more than 48 months elapse without the applicant taking any further steps for the expeditious disposal of the matter, the registrar may treat the application as lapsed.
He should, however, give a notice to the applicant before he declares the application as lapsed. Whatever be the time taken for grant of registration, such registration is deemed to have been taken effect from the date of the original application.
N.K. Acharya is an intellectual property rights attorney specializing in patents, trademarks, copyrights and design. Queries are welcome at email@example.com