What is a Trademark?

Trade marks are the words and symbols that identify the products and services offered by one company and distinguish them from those of another. They include names, brands, logos, designs, shapes and sometimes even colors. The goodwill associated with a trade mark can be one of the most valuable assets a business possesses, and the use of the same or similar trade mark by a competing business can significantly dilute its value. That’s why most well-known companies go to extreme lengths to protect their trade marks.


In order for a trade mark to be enforceable, it must not be the same as or similar to a trade mark already in use by a business that is offering the same category of products or services, or whose brand has become so ubiquitous that use of the same trade mark in another category would still be confusing to consumers. For example, it may not be possible to register or enforce either a “Stardust Coffee” or a “Starbuck’s Biscuits” trade mark, especially if the logo has a green background, due to potential confusion with the global coffee chain.


In addition, since the main purpose of a trade mark is to distinguish your product or service, it must not be a generic term or simply be descriptive of the item being sold without giving the consumer any indication as to the source of the product. Therefore, using “Meat Pies Delivered” as a brand name for a company that delivers meat pies to your home would most likely fail as a valid trade mark on both accounts.


The best way for your business to protect its valid trade marks in Ireland is to register them with the Irish Patents Office. Registration gives the trade mark owner a statutory right to prevent others from using the trade mark and bring infringement proceedings in court, as well as the exclusive right to license the trade mark in Ireland. In certain circumstances, the fraudulent use of a registered trade mark may also be a criminal offense. For these same reasons, trade marks should also be registered in other countries where your business will offer products or services.

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