How to choose a trade mark

Even if you do not plan to register your trade mark, it is best to pick a trade mark which is registrable, because otherwise at some future date you may want or need to register your trade mark but be unable to do so.

Any trade marks which come into any of the categories listed below are likely to be difficult or impossible to register as trade marks:

  • Any word or words which describe or praise the goods or services or which describe some characteristic of the goods or services (e.g. quality, quantity, intended purpose, geographical origin).
  • Any word which is a known name, or an abbreviation of a known name, for the corresponding goods or services.
  • Surnames (including foreign surnames) are registrable only if the mark is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one trader from the same or similar goods or services supplied by other traders. Only very rare or obscure surnames are likely to meet this requirement.
  • Geographical place names, unless the place is one in which the goods are most unlikely to be made.
  • The names or abbreviations of known international bodies, e.g. United Nations, World Health Organization, Girl Guides.
  • Trade Marks that incorporate known state emblems or armorial bearings or state flags.

Although the Trade Marks Act permits the registration of shapes, colours, smells, sounds and tastes as trade marks, in practice it is very difficult to prove that these types of trade marks are capable of distinguishing your goods or services from somebody else’s.  Most trade mark applications for these types of trade mark are refused.

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