Trademarks and Start-ups: 4 Frequently Asked Questions

The conundrum of whether to apply for a trademark at the start of a business is something that crosses every entrepreneur’s mind. Following are some common questions that start-ups often ponder over that we trust will benefit you:

When is it advisable for startups to register their trademark?

Registering trademarks should be an early milestone in a prudent business model.
For startups, building a brand will most probably be on the top of their “To-Do List”, but in the mean time they must also not side-line the importance of protecting the brand. Businesses need to consider the importance of creating a recognizable and trustworthy brand, as well as legally protecting the same.
Another reason for filing a trademark early on is for the name. As per data, over 70% of startups pitch to investors with the name they started their business with.

Are customers or investors concerned about a trademark registration when dealing with the start-ups?

Definitely! The purchasing decisions of consumers are influenced by trademarks and the reputation such brands represent. Trademarks are often the most spontaneously searched articles on the internet by any user seeking information about your products or services.
Given the fact that a trademark helps the potential customers and clients to tell you apart from other competitors in the market, it becomes the crux of your business identity. Interestingly, investors too prefer funding businesses with an established trademark, as a registered trademark creates a sound name and a face value for the business and increases the credibility of your business in the market.

What protection do I possess for a trademark which I’ve been using for a long time but haven’t registered?

One of the most important advantages of having a trademark registered is that it provides the owner the right to initiate action for infringement of the mark. An absence of legal recognition for your trademark will give the other business entities a chance to drain away the reputation and goodwill accredited to your business and also to generate profit while riding on the back of your brand name.
The only way to protect an unregistered trademark is if the mark has extensive and prolonged usage. These unregistered marks may be protected by succeeding in an action of passing-off, where the court upholds the usage of the trademark. To succeed in such an action, it is necessary to establish that the unregistered mark has comparable goodwill or reputation in connection with the product, service or business with which it is used.

Is an Indian trademark registration valid outside India?

No. A trademark registered under the Trademark Act, 1999, is valid within our country’s border and does not accord any rights to the proprietor outside the country..

Can someone else register the same trademark as that of mine for an entirely different class of services or products?

Yes. The basic perception behind having a trademark registration is to distinguish the products or services of a particular person from the rest, so as to avoid a confusion or deception among the customers. So, anyone can register a trademark which is either the same or even similar to your trademark for an entirely different products and operate in different markets. And the consumers are not likely to be confused.

One of the factors which the Courts look at to determine likelihood of customer confusion is whether the two businesses are in the same industry. The question in these kinds of circumstances is whether the goods or services offered by the two companies are sufficiently related such that a consumer would be likely to think the company providing the first product or service would be reasonably likely to provide the second product or service also. When the products are so unrelated that consumers are not likely to be confused into thinking that they come from the same source, the same trademark can be used.

This article in its original form appeared first on Selvam and Selvam and has been re-published here with their permission.

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