Indian trademark law saw its origin way back in the 1940s with the advent of the Trade and Merchandise Act, 1958, subsequently increasing the need for protecting the trademarks. This upsurge can be attributed to the rise in growth of trade and commerce in the country over the years. Ever since then, the trademark law in India has been amended quite a few times to adapt with the standard of the growth of trade and commerce. Intellectual Property is an intangible property, yet one of the most important assets of a business and hence, businesses looking at the Indian market are the most in need of a trademark protection to safeguard their intellectual property rights.
However, one of the primary questions that arise when a business or a startup decides to protect their brand or trademark is – whether a business should protect its trademark as a word or a logo?
Trademarks in India can be registered in different forms namely word mark, label, logo and device mark and deciding whether to register the mark as a word mark or as a logo as a trademark is the toughest decisions to make for one before applying for registration of a trademark. Although, there isn’t a definite answer for the question, there are many factors which lead to deciding whether a business should register the brand name or trademark, as a logo or a word mark or a combination of both which is termed as a composite mark.
Trademark application as a word mark:
A word mark registers the word a person would want to use and renders stronger and wider protection to that person’s business. Once registration is granted for a word trademark, the applicant has the right to use and represent the word in any format or font which grants it extensive protection including exclusive rights to the word as a whole and also allows the applicant to depict it in various formats regardless of its style for all the goods and services in respect of the mark. In other words, by filing a word mark, one would prevent third parties from using one’s brand name in any regard.
Trademark application as a logo:
A logo or a composite mark on the other hand gives a person the rights in the combination of images, design and words taken together. Therefore, the protection given to the words encompassed in the logo are limited in comparison with the standard word marks since the rights in a logo are entitled only to the logo as a whole. If one wishes to register a particular stylized appearance or a combination of stylized wording, orientation, shape, colour and design, filing a trademark as a logo would be appropriate. In other words, by filing a logo, one would prevent third parties from using the said logo or any other logo deceptively similar, rather than the words incorporated in the logo.
Quite often, the brand name of businesses constitutes both of words and logos rather than just a logo. The safest way to protect the intellectual property in such instances would be to file the trade mark as both as a word mark and as a logo. However, since filing multiple trade mark applications would be an expensive affair, the next safest pick for businesses who are looking at cost efficiency would be to register the trade mark as a word mark.
An ideal example for such a scenario would be that of the well-known brand PEPSI. Since 1962 till date, PEPSI has changed its logo a significant number of times. Had it registered its initial trade mark application as a logo in 1962 and ceased usage of the same each time a new logo was created, then it would have to file a new trademark application for every such new logo created. The initial trademark application would not protect any of the subsequently created logos. However, since PEPSI registered their trade mark as a word mark, they were able to do away with such redundant hassles. Ideally, separate trademark applications for word as well as logo should be filed to attain the broadest protection for any business. While big companies might have the budget to justify such multiple applications, this may not seem economical for startup businesses. Hence, it is advisable to file the trademark as a word mark, giving one the next broadest protection against unwarranted infringers.
But again, if a business will apply for word mark registration or logo registration will completely depend on the business strategy since if a logo mark is distinctive enough then the business can go ahead with the logo registration only. The crux of the story is mainly your client should be able to recognize you as in recognize your brand among all the other competitive brands. Your brand should stand out in the pool of thousands of other brands or competitors. Your brand should be unique or distinctive, whether as a word or a logo or a combination of both.