Trademarking Principles Every Start-Up Should Know

Having a unique trademark is important for any business, but securing your own name or brand can be tricky and challenging. With multiple companies fighting over common words, it is no surprise start-up businesses in Singapore are very much eager to snag their own name.

However, if you are just starting out, trademark registration is probably not on your priority list. Keeping the following principles in mind will lead you to the right path.

1. Active use of brand name is essential

If you are new to trademark registration, you may be thinking that you need to register trademark before you’re allowed to use it and that the obtained registration law will protect your brand while you are building your name in the industry.

While this sounds more practical, it actually works backwards. You should use your name in commerce to establish your rights to claim it afterwards. If you are the first one to use the name and your business uses it actively, you get a ‘common law’ trademarking rights for your name—logo or mark—even if it is not your registered mark yet.

If you have unique trademark for your products that does not break anyone else’s trademark rights, use it as early as possible to establish your rights to your chosen brand with brand mark from Singapore to help you register it. Widespread and active use will protect your business against infringement even before you are able to register your trademark. In fact, active use of name is an imperative part of getting your register TM approved. Basically, you need to use the mark first, before it will be approved for registration.

2. Competitors do not need to register their name

Just like not needing to register your mark, your competitor also does not need to do the same if you happen to have the same mark, regardless of whether it is already registered by another company or not. If a bigger company has already register trademark, it would be best to move on to another option.

3. Stay within the same industry

If you’re just starting up, the only competitors you have to think about are those in the same industry. It is very unlikely that consumers confuse a food product with a laptop, so there’s no need to worry about infringement of intellectual property from a food company if you are using a tech term as your brand name or mark.

4. Research is key

Assuming you have already picked a name for your business, the next step to do is to research whether it is taken or not. A simple search on Google will give you an idea of the active companies using the same name.

Afterwards, depending on where you plan to expand in the future—whether you want to stay in Singapore or go international—you need to ensure that you are covered. So, search for the name you want to register in regional and international databases. Go for a subjective name or mark rather than going for a descriptive one, as it tends to give more value to your business.

5. Expired trademarks are not ideal

Have you ever wondered how businesses like Layer and Nest were able to register one-word trademarks? All you need to do is to look through expired trademarks or trademarks that were not registered in your category. However, be careful when picking a name from expired trademarks. Business owners did not renew them for a reason; perhaps, because of bad reputation or unwanted associations. To make sure you are getting a good name, again, research is the key.

6. Your trademark should be unique

You cannot trademark every product name, even if you have established every name. A generic name or a common descriptive trademark may work for some smaller business, but you should understand that you cannot register a generic term. “The Computer Repair Shop” is not original enough to be registered as a company trademark. As a start-up company that aims to expand, this is an especially important consideration when picking a name for trademark registration.

While a local repair shop operates just fine with such common name without official trademark, bigger companies would take the extra steps to protecting their intellectual property.

7. Your lawyer is your best friend

If you think you can handle everything about trademark registration on your own, think again. You need to be legally knowledgeable to protect your name.

Having a lawyer do a thorough research nationally and/or internationally will help you determine if you can gain the rights to use your mark, and more importantly, proceed on making the steps to secure it.

8. It’s your job to keep it protected

Do not tolerate copycats, and make the extra effort to find them. As the owner of the registered mark, it is your responsibility to keep your rights protected and take the necessary actions to prevent others from destroying your name and reputation.

The counter actions you can do against the person or business are stated in the law. If you believe that the consumers are misled by an infringer, there are certain actions you can take. If you believe your rights are breached, seek for the advice of your lawyer for the necessary counter actions to make.

Keeping in mind these tips will help any start-up protect their name against theft, copying and illegal use of their brand name or mark. Additionally, your business will be protected from infringement lawsuit from other companies for both intentional and unintentional use of their names.

Business Talk in Singapore

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