What’s a trademark, really?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Business elements that can be trademarked include: business name, logo, slogan, signature, brand name or whatever distinctive mark.
Once the trade marks are registered, you will spot the symbol ™ or ®, or the word “Registered” being used on such business’ goods and services. The trademark owner can either be an individual, business organization, or any legal entity and the trademark may be located on a package, a label, a voucher, or on the product itself. For the sake of corporate identity, trademarks are sometimes displayed on company buildings.
In Nigeria, the government agency in charge of the registration of trademarks is the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, Commercial Law Department, Federal Ministry Of Industry, Trade And Investment. (such a long name right, we think so too).
So what advantages does a trademark owner have over a non-trademark owner?
Registering your trademark is the quickest and most cost-effective way to ensure legal exclusivity for the use of your name or logo . It really reduces the risk of other business owners using your name or logo.
Geographical coverage and foreign territories
Registering your trademark also usually gives you nationwide protection instead of rights that are restricted to the specific areas or regions in which you trade.
If you also intend expanding overseas, this gives you a good platform to obtain rights in other countries – even before you commence trading in those countries.
A registered trade mark can be used as security to secure loan facilities much the same way as immovable property can be bonded. This isn’t practised yet in Nigeria but it is a recognized practice for individuals and companies trading in Western countries.
Serves as intangible property
A very important reason for registration is to create the trademark as an identifiable intangible property in the legal sense. Trade mark registration is one way to draw from the reputation or goodwill that the product, service or brand enjoys to other products or businesses . Trade mark registration can be transferred like any other asset owned by a person or a company.
Right to seek reliefs upon infringement
The certificate of registration for your business’ trademark is strong evidence of your ownership and your use of a trademark.
If any one infringes or uses a logo / name similar to yours, which is capable of confusing your clients, you can seek an injunction from the court to restrain further use and also claim for monetary compensation You will however have to prove the damages or loss you suffered as a result of the infringement. This could either be likelihood of confusion, loss of sales or damage to your business reputation.
A trademark is an intangible asset that can be enormously valuable when your brand succeeds. Businesses can earn huge money in royalties through licensing agreements or even transfer ownership to interested parties through assignment agreements. An example of this is seen in franchise systems and franchise agreements, which are quite common in Nigeria.
You can learn more about trademark licensing by reading more here.
With all the benefits that avail any business or brand that gets its name or logo trademarked, why haven’t you done so yet? You can start here.