What are trademarks?
Trademarks are signs of success. A trademark is a sign which is capable of distinguishing goods and services of one company from those of another business. Words, letters, numbers, slogans, pictures, sounds, three-dimensional forms and other presentational aspects can be protected as signs of this nature if they meet certain requirements. After a precise review of what is known as absolute grounds for refusal, the trademark is registered. The term of protection initially lasts for 10 years from the application date on, but can be extended as desired.
Establishing a successful trademark involves more than just making an application at the trademark office. A comprehensive strategy is necessary, and it must begin even before the correct trademark is selected – irrespective of whether it is a word mark, a figurative mark or any other type of sign. We work hand in hand with designers and graphic artists who help to ensure that legal aspects (such as for example the question of the basic eligibility of the sign to be registered as a trademark) are taken into account even during the selection of the trademark. In this context, distinctiveness is an important factor which we constantly bear in mind.
Why a trademark search?
The preliminary search for earlier trademark rights is extremely important even when the suitable trademark is being selected. After the trademark application was filed, usually considerable sums are invested in marketing and establishment of the brand. To avoid a situation where a trademark, which has been marketed at great expense, subsequently proves to be worthless a timely comprehensive and targeted search is initial for making sure that it does not conflict with a competitor’s trademark and can be used to its extent intended.
To avoid such scenarios, sometimes it can be beneficial to operate with various trademarks in parallel. In this area too, we develop efficient and creative solutions together with our clients.
German trademark or European Community trademark?
For companies based in Germany, trademark applications are initially filed either in Germany or in all member states of European Community, depending on the company’s focus and the nature of the trademark. The differences between the trademark registration processes in Germany (at the German Patent and Trademark Office – DPMA) and in Europe (at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market – OHIM) principally relate to procedural issues. These issues can be relevant to the decision as to whether a trademark should be filed in Germany first or in the whole of Europe straightaway: for instance, a ground for refusal in only one European Member State affects a Community trademark in its entirety while a national German trademark could remain unaffected in this case.
In parallel with applications in Germany and Europe, it makes sense to protect a trademark outside of the European Community, too. In addition to cost aspects, the relevant market situation is also always a relevant factor. Trademarks for example that are successful in the European Community are quite different from those successful in the USA or in China and Japan. Together with our network of patent attorneys and lawyers in many large industrial nations, we can also offer you top-quality advice in this area.
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