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Developing your brand is crucial for facilitating steady business growth and cementing your place in the market. This brand could include your:

  •  business name;
  •  logo or symbol; or
  • individual product names.

Customers can easily identify you through a distinctive logo or catchy slogan, and this reputation adds value to your business. So, it is all the more important to protect this brand legally and prevent other people from copying you or using your ideas. You can protect your brand by registering its different aspects as a trade mark, and a good trade mark registration means that your rights are comprehensively protected. This article will cover what makes a good trade mark and how you can go about registering one.

What Can I Protect with Trade Mark Registration?

There are many things you can potentially protect by registering your trade mark, ranging from the name of your business to the distinctive logo you use. Some parts of your brand that you could register as a trade mark include: 

Name

You should trademark the name of your brand or business, including how it’s written and displayed.  For example, McDonald’s would include its iconic arches as part of its trade mark registration portfolio.

Slogan

Having a catchy slogan as part of your registered trade mark portfolio is a good way to make sure customers remember you, and you ensure that no one else can use that slogan.

Logo

A visual representation of your business that is common to all your branding is an efficient way to establish continuity and make your business more memorable. You can also combine your logo and business name as one trade mark.

Hashtag

Suppose you have a distinctive hashtag that you associate with your business. In that case, you could protect that with a trade mark registration to make sure no one else can misappropriate that hashtag to trade off your reputation.

How Do I Apply for Trade Mark Registration?

You submit your application for registration to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), and they will approve your application provided you meet their criteria. You should duly consider what kind of trade mark you want to register and how you intend to use it before applying. You also need to make sure you know:

  • the classes of goods or services you will provide under your trade mark;
  • who owns the trade mark, whether it be an individual or a company;
  •  whether any issues are preventing your registration, e.g. someone else claiming intellectual property rights to your proposed trade mark;
  • where your trade mark will operate geographically. Trade marks registered in NZ only apply to NZ; and
  • that you will use your trade mark within the next three years. Otherwise, someone else can apply to have your trade mark revoked.

What Makes a Good Trade Mark?

An effective trade mark is distinctive and will not be confused with other trade marks already in the market. This sets your business apart and means that IPONZ is more likely to accept your application for registration. Possible examples of good trade marks include:

Invented Words

Using an invented word means that there is a higher likelihood that no one else has a similar trade mark. You could look to other languages for inspiration or combine words to make new ones distinct to your brand.

Unrelated Words

You could also use words that are unrelated to your business or the industry you operate in. Apple is an example of this, applying the name of a fruit to their computer brand.

Unique Names

Generally, personal names are not good trade marks as they can often be too common or not distinctive enough. For example, “Smith’s Gardening Supplies” would be too common and therefore difficult to register. But if you have a unique name that is appropriate for your business, this could be an option for you.

What Should I Avoid?

It is generally a good idea to avoid words or signs that are too broad or vague for your trade mark, as this means your trade mark is not easily distinguishable from other trade marks that already exist. The table below outlines some signs that you should avoid.

Suggestive Names

These would be words or terms that directly relate to and suggest the product or services you are selling. Other businesses in your industry may already be using these words, and it may be difficult to claim that you should have an exclusive right to this name.

Descriptive Marks

Words that describe the nature or quality of your products, describe the geographical location or are just standard industry terms that describe your goods or services are too generic. IPONZ likely would not accept these for registration, and it would be difficult for customers to remember your business. Examples include “Tasty Pies” or “Auckland Accountants.”

Other Brands

You do not want to register a trade mark that is identical to or similar to one that another business is already using, even if that brand is not being used in your industry. IPONZ is less likely to accept it, and you could run into legal issues further down the track.

Key Takeaways

A good trade mark is distinctive and original and not likely to be confused with other business’ trade marks that already exist. If you would like more information or help with your trade mark, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is some kind of sign that people can use to identify your business. Trade marks can range from your business name to a catchy jingle, but commonly a trade mark consists of a logo or slogan.

What makes a good trade mark?

A good trade mark is distinctive and original. This makes it easy to remember for customers, and you are less likely to be confused with other businesses in the market. Invented words make good trade marks.

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