A trade or service mark is a distinctive sign of some kind which is used by an organization to uniquely identify itself, its products and/or services to consumers, and to distinguish the organization and its products or services from those of other organizations. A trade or service mark is a type of industrial property which is distinct form other forms of intellectual property. A registered Trade or Service Mark is an item of property – this means you can sell it, rent it out by licensing, etc.
Conventionally, a trademark or service mark comprises a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image or a combination of these elements. There is also a range of non-conventional trademarks comprising marks which do not fall into these standard categorise.
Many people question the need for spending money on registering their trademark. Here are some of the benefits:
- It gives the owner the exclusive right to use it for the goods and/or services which it is registered – governments are not normally happy to give people a monopoly for anything. Registered Trade Marks, like other intellectual property rights, are an exception.
- It enables the owner to take infringement action against anyone else who uses it – the fact that you have registered your mark means that any infringer has to take you seriously. This is supported by the New Trademarks Law in Ghana titled “TRADE MARKS ACT, 2004 (ACT 664)”.
- It protects consumers from deception, that is to prevent the public from purchasing inferior goods or services in the mistaken belief that they originate from or are provided by another trader.
- It protects business reputation and goodwill.
- Unregistered marks have to rely on the common law action of ‘passing off’ – passing off actions are extremely expensive (they require large amounts of evidence that you have used the mark sufficiently to claim ownership, and then further evidence that customers were under the impression that they were buying you goods rather than the infringer’s).
Be aware that registration of a business name, company name or domain name does not in itself give you any proprietary rights – only a registered trade mark can give you that kind of protection. Ensure you have exclusive use of your name now and in the future.