Trade Marks Matter, Especially During COVID!

COVID-19 has had an impact on most businesses.  Over the last year, businesses have been grappling with the impact that COVID-19 has had on their operations.  Intellectual property, and specifically trade marks, has taken a backseat to more pressing concerns.  While this is understandable, it does help to remind ourselves why intellectual property, and particularly trade marks, matters.

The main purpose of a trade mark is to be a “source identifier”, that is, it indicates the origin of goods and services. In a marketplace that is saturated with goods and services, it may be difficult for consumers to distinguish one business from another offering the same goods or services. A trade mark helps consumers know who you are and what products or services you are offering.  Trade marks are an efficient commercial communication tool to capture customer attention, make your business, products and/ or services stand out and convey your business’ reputation in the goods or services concerned.

Like immovable property, equipment or vehicles, trade marks are assets that can be very valuable and also be valued.  Trade marks can appreciate in value over time – the more your business reputation grows, the more valuable your brand will become. Take, for example, a business like The Coca Cola Company.  The value of its business lies in its brand (which includes the trade mark, COCA COLA) as well as the recipe/ formula of its soft drink (which is a trade mark secret, another form of intellectual property).  Another example – Apple Inc.  Here again, the value of its business lies in its brand (which includes the trade mark, APPLE as well as the APPLE device) as well as its patented technologies.

Intellectual property, and particularly trade marks, can form the very foundation or backbone of a business and give it a competitive edge.

The benefits of a trade mark registration cannot be understated –

  • A registered trade mark is prima facie proof of the validity of the trade mark, the registrant’s ownership thereof and the registrant’s exclusive right to use the trade mark in relation to the goods or services covered by it (and, by extension, to restrain others from using the same or a closely similar trade mark) and provides an easy remedy (in an action for infringement).
  • The registrant, being in a position to offer the statutory protection of a registration, is more likely to attract licensees.
  • A registered trade mark also entitles the registrant or its licensee to use the legend “registered trade mark” or a suitable abbreviation in circle in conjunction with their trade mark.
  • A registered trade mark also acts as constructive notice and a deterrent to potential infringers.
  • Furthermore, a registered trade mark can exist in perpetuity, provided that it is renewed when required.
  • A registered trade mark also offers a number of practical benefits or advantages (for example, in the case of dealing with counterfeit goods or policing on social media, etc.).

These are but some of the many benefits of holding a trade mark registration.

Given the significant benefits of a right which can exist in perpetuity, the costs of securing a trade mark registration are, in comparison, fairly insignificant, especially having regard to our competitive pricing.

It is, of course, up to the business to decide when, how and to what extent to protect its intellectual property and particularly, its trade marks.  However, protecting ones intellectual property should never be sidelined or forgotten.

Amina Suliman
Partner | Trade Mark Attorney
Maureen Makoko
Associate | Trade mark Attorney
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