Your brand is the image that differentiates you from your competitors. It identifies your product, your service, your company! It may be represented by a sign, a symbol, a design, a word, a colour, or a combination thereof. It conveys a sense of quality, credibility, customer satisfaction. It plays a crucial role in your marketing strategy and is at the core of your business competitiveness. It generates customer loyalty and has a value. It may become your strongest asset.
The legal expression of your brand is a trademark. A trademark confers on you the exclusive right to prevent third parties from using the signs that distinguish your brand in the course of trade for identical or similar goods or services. You can register your trademark in India by filing an application at the Trademarks Registry (TMR) within the Office of the Controller General for Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM). The registration of your trademark in India will be valid for a period of 10 years from the date of the trademark registration and can be renewed time and again for similar duration of 10 years. Managing your brand implies regularly renewing your trademarks and enforcing your rights against counterfeiters. The assignment and licensing of trademark rights may play a significant role in brand commercialization through partnership, merger and franchising initiatives.
Like most companies, when we came up with our name, we were convinced that it is a unique name and getting a trademark registration for the same should be a cakewalk! But this was not to be. When we applied for a trademark, the registry raised an objection stating that the name was not unique enough! But how, I wondered! We don’t have generic terms in our name like “Bharat” or “coastal”. And we had also conducted a trademark search before applying for the same. Everything was clear. Then how come this objection?
Well, the Trademark Registry can, on its own raise an objection if the name sounds generic. Does that mean, you cannot protect such a name?
Not exactly! You can always get a little creative. One way to still protect your brand is by clubbing your name and logo and registering the two as a single label. Do make sure your logo is unique. Also, if your logo is a coloured one, then you may consider registering the logo in black and white. How does it help? Well, registering a label in black and white protects the logo and the label from being replicated in any colour as opposed to registering the logo/label in one particular colour, in which case the logo in that colour gets protected, thus exposing it to the risk of being replicated in a different colour.
Therefore, before applying for registration of trademark, check with your trademark consultant on whether you should apply only for registration of the name of your company or logo or both. It is important you take this call before making applications, and spending on registration fees. After all when you are bootstrapping, every penny counts!