What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a means of indicating the origin of goods or services in the market-place. A trade mark is usually a word or a logo, or a combination of these but may also be e.g. a sound (advertising jingle), a 3-dimensional shape (container) a smell, or a colour. Any of these can be recognisable by a purchaser, and the more recognisable a trade mark becomes the more valuable it is.

It is not compulsory to register a trade mark in order to use it, but registration is recommended. This is because registration makes it easier to stop others from using the mark, and may also give a defence if one is accused of infringing another's registered trade mark. A registration also offers an implicit guarantee to a purchaser of the quality or source of the goods or services.

All possible goods and services are divided into 45 different ‘classes’, and the same mark may be registered for different owners in different classes, provided the goods or services involved are sufficiently different.

We can carry out searches link to check whether a trade mark is free for use and/or registration. 

Choosing a trade mark

A trade mark might have more than one function, from the point of view of both owner and consumer, and great care is needed in choosing it. Ideally, the trade mark should be distinctive and memorable, or at least capable of becoming so over a period of time. This is because a trade mark needs to be "capable of distinguishing" in order to be registrable. However, for marketing reasons, many first selections are less than ideal, and are often descriptive of the goods or services offered (for example WEB SOUNDS for music downloadable from the Internet). These kind of trade marks can be difficult to register.

Invented words and logos will usually have a better chance of reaching registration and of impressing themselves on the public mind. An excellent example is KODAK®. However, if an invented word is undesirable from a marketing standpoint, try to compromise on words or logos which do not directly describe the product or service. Think for example of JAGUAR (speed, sleekness); MERCURY (fleetness of foot); FORTRESS (strength). Some combinations of prefix/suffix produce good trade marks e.g. EUROSTAR® ; ELECTROLUX® ; STARTRITE® .