How to protect a trademark – tips, links and costs

A trademark is individual and stands for your company. There are many reasons why you need your own identifying mark.

So that this remains however really a singular recognition characteristic, you should let protect your mark. Many people are reluctant to do so, especially because of the costs and the effort involved. However, the process is usually easier than expected.

In this article you will learn the basic and most important information about what to consider when registering a trademark.

(Note: I am not a lawyer, nor can this article be used as a legal basis. Consult a lawyer if you have questions.)

Stay distinctive

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Only by registering a trademark can you remain unmistakable. Because who assures you that no one else will imitate or discover your distinctive feature for themselves?

Exactly that is prevented with a trademark application. Nobody is allowed to use the trademark without your permission. Neither in advertising, nor in any product names. All this is regulated in the law on the protection of trademarks and other distinctive signs.

On the Internet and in everyday life, registered trademarks can be recognized by the so-called "registred" ® sign. This may not be used until a trademark has been registered. The mark can be used optionally. Mostly this is used for advertising purposes. However, it is important to note that the ® may only be placed after the actual registered trademark and not after an entire phrase.

The recognition feature can be protected in different variations. The simplest one is Word mark. Here, only a word or a group of words is protected, while the Figurative mark for example refers to the logo. The Word/figurative mark is a combination of both. The best known is the Coca-Cola emblem.

Which option to choose must be decided in each individual case. However, the figurative or word/figurative mark has a disadvantage: if the logo or design is to be given a new coat of paint, the new version is not protected. In contrast to a word mark, a figurative mark is also more likely to be altered.

Good research is the key

Before applying for a trademark at the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA), a good search is inevitable. The DPMA only checks if the trademark can be protected and does not violate the guidelines. Words which only describe a service cannot be protected.

A small example: the words bakery, train ride or round trips cannot be protected. However, the DPMA does not check whether a trademark with a similar or identical name has already been registered. The trademark owner must do this in advance.

It is advisable to involve a lawyer to help with the search. In some cases it can be dispensed with in good conscience. This is the case if, for example, nothing is found for the trademark on Google and other portals.

It should also be noted that a trademark is only protected in the specified services. These are selected during registration. It is therefore possible to have two identical trademarks, provided that they deal with different fields of work.

However, googling alone is not sufficient, but should still be done. A good search is mandatory. Because after the trademark has been registered, owners of already existing as well as expired trademarks have the right to file an opposition.

This is possible if there is a collision. This is the case, among other things, if the trademarks sound similar or are possibly even the same. A current example shows the dispute between Sky and Skype. If this is the case, there will be an opposition procedure. These proceedings often take a long time and cause the court costs to skyrocket.

To simplify matters, various databases are available online, which can be used to carry out the search independently. In the DPMAregister all German trademarks can be found. However, not only existing trademarks in the desired country of registration may be taken into account: the recognition marks can also be registered internationally or Europe-wide.

Even if the application is only desired in one country, the brand name can collide with the international, respectively European trademarks. To check this, portals are of course also available for this purpose.

While European trademarks can be found using eSearch Plus, WIPO offers a search for international registrations. It should be noted that similar sounding trademarks are also searched for. Placeholders are available for this purpose, which offer different functions depending on the portal.

The application is quick and easy – the office takes its time

After the research has been done, the next step is to apply for the trademark. Using an online tool of the DPMA is not only cheaper, but also quick and easy. Only the personal data and the trademark to be protected have to be registered.

Proof that the trademark is in use is not necessary. As already mentioned, a trademark cannot be protected for all fields of use at once, but only for certain services. The services are divided into different categories, which form the so called classes of Nice.

In these classes Nice find themselves different services again, which can be selected. An example: in the classes Nice 38 you can find services from telecommunications, in the classes Nice 7 you can find services for engines and similar things.

The database is large, according to the DPMA’s own information there are approximately 60.000 services. In order to find the appropriate services, an overview is provided on this page. During the application process, the individual classes as well as services must be selected as the last step. The number is not limited, as long as the necessary money is available. The application can then be submitted.

Now nothing more can be done from the owner’s side. The trademark office takes its time. The registration of German trademarks can take up to six months. Of course, in some cases it can be faster within a few weeks. Nevertheless, several steps can be observed.

First, a confirmation of receipt is sent by mail. About the same time the trademark can be found in the DPMAregister. After that, the mark is already registered and a certificate is sent. Prerequisite: the trademark has met all application criteria and may be registered.

Shortly thereafter, the registration is published in the Trademark Gazette. At the same time, the three-month opposition period for existing trademark owners will begin. Only when this objection period has expired without an objection, the registration is successful and terminated. From now on the trademark is protected for ten years until it either expires or is renewed.

Success costs its money

Only those who are successful can earn good money. On the other hand, it is also said that only those who invest money can be successful. Even with a brand registration, you have to invest money.

The minimum cost for the shooter is 290 euros for three Nizzas. However, any number of services can be selected within these nizzas. Each additional Nice costs 100 euros.

The offices will also be digitalized: if the registration is submitted in writing, there will be an extra charge of ten euros. After the ten years of protection have expired, the trademark can of course be extended. Curiously, however, this costs more than the initial protection. Extending costs at least 750 euros. In return, the trademark remains individual, unique and may not be used by anyone else.

Do it before it’s too late

You have only recently found your brand? Then protect it now, before it is too late and someone else does it. After all, first come, first served.

All in all, registering your brand is easier than expected. Only good research is required so that nothing goes wrong. It is optimal if you cannot find a registration for your brand. Then, in many cases, an opposition is as good as impossible.

Author

Moritz Kraub currently attends the Technical High School in Aalen with the profile subject Information Technology. Almost two years ago he founded the technology and internet blog TechnikSurfer, where he blogs about many areas of the technology and internet world.

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