Unregistered or registered trademark?

There is a difference between a registered and an unregistered trademark, and the difference matters when brands find themselves in situations of trademark infringement. Do you know the difference? If not, read along.

The meaning of the two trademark symbols

In trademark law, two symbols (“®” and “™”) are used to denote that e.g. a word or a logo is a trademark. The “®” indicates that the word or logo is a registered trademark, whereas the “™” indicates that you consider your word or logo a protected trademark, but you haven’t formally registered it as such.

Using the trademark symbols signals that you consider the trademark your property and that it is not to be used by anyone else offering goods or services similar to yours. Using the trademark symbols also indicates that you take your trademark seriously and will defend it against copyists.

Note that you can use the “™” symbol in any country to indicate a trademark that isn’t officially registered, whereas you can only use the “®” symbol in the countries in which you have a formally registered trademark that is approved by the national or transnational authorities.

In Denmark, the authority that manages trademark registrations is The Danish Patent and Trademark Office. In the EU, the authority managing trademark applications across the European countries is called EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).

Can I use my trademark without registering it?

In some countries, including Denmark and the US, a trademark is protected from the moment you start using it, if you use it in a way that establishes recognition widely, not just locally. You can do this by marketing your product in stores and simultaneously placing ads in national newspapers or online. This is called establishing common law rights. An example is how the oil and gas company Q8 launched their trademark in Denmark by placing an ad in national newspapers when entering the Danish oil and gas market.

When pleading common law rights in a trademark dispute, you must be able to prove your usage, which is often a time-consuming and difficult process. We recommend that you formally register your trademark as it provides the best and simplest protection. In the event of a competitor accusing you of copying their trademark, a registration makes it easy to prove your right to brand your products and company under your trademark.

In countries where establishing common law rights by usage alone isn’t possible, registering your trademark is a necessity. Check the legal practice in the countries in which you wish to use the trademark to make sure that you have the sole rights to your trademark and the right to stop others from infringing on your trademark.
We can help you understand foreign trademark law.

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