What is a trademark?

The most commonly used trademarks are word marks and logos, but a trademark could also be the shape of, say, the COCA-COLA® bottle or TOBLERONE’s characteristically triangular chocolate. It is up to you and your imagination how you shape your trademark as long as it is distinctive and unique and can’t be confused with an existing trademark.

Did you know that in some countries, your trademark can gain protected status through usage alone? Learn more in the section: Registered or protected trademark?

A trademarks protects your business

The essential thing for a business is to protect the company name, products names, logo and slogan.

A trademark can contain several elements:

  • One or more words, a name or a sentence
  • A graphic or figurative illustration
  • A three-dimensional brand

To see if you brand name is available, you can search the databases provided by EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).

Different types of trademarks

It is possible to protect several distinct characteristics of your company name and product. Here are some examples:

  • Word marks: Letters forming a word or a pronounceable abbreviation such as HUMMEL®, CARLSBERG® and HMV®
  • Figurative marks: Logos – with or without words – such as the famous apple of APPLE® and the four linked rings of AUDI®
  • Product packaging marks: The design and shape of the product packaging such as the hour glass shaped COCA-COLA® bottle
  • Sound marks: A jingle or signature tune such as INTEL®’s five-tone jingle or TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT®’s Looney Tunes theme song.
  • Colour marks: A certain colour or colour scheme associated with a product or service such as the red soles of CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN®’s pumps or the brown and gold colour scheme associated with UPS® trucks

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What can’t be protected as a trademark?

If you wish to register a name, slogan or logo, you need to align with the following requirements:

1) Be more than descriptive
When registering a new figurative mark as your company logo, make sure that the mark is not descriptive or looks like a regularly applied symbol such as the arrow for recycling or the shape of a simple geometric figure in the form of a label or price tag.

2) Do not go against legislation or mislead the consumer

It is not possible to register anything that misleads the consumer e.g. a name or slogan for fake jewelry that contains the word ‘gold’. Further, your trademark can only use protected titles such as pharmacist or lawyer, if you have permission to use the title in question.

3)  Do not use symbols like escutcheons and flags

Your logo can only contain official state characteristics, if you have gained permission for it.


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