How are Trademark Rights Enforced?

Trademark registration is not a mandatory process for companies, businesses, and organizations in Singapore, although a registered mark will include advantages that an unregistered mark does not have.

Trademarks as Intellectual Property

If a company decides to apply to register trademark at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), the owner will in effect be applying for the protection from infringement and obtain exclusive rights to a trademark.

A trademark is one of the components of intellectual property, which is also made up of patents, copyrights, designs, and trade secret. It is a distinctive symbol, name, numeral, letter, design, color, shape, or other devices that distinguishes the company from other traders and firms. The registered mark is used to communicate to the consumers a company’s identity, message, and the type of products and/or services they produce/render. Trademark registration’s basic principle therefore, is to give the company the exclusive right to use that unique mark to indicate where the goods and/or services came from.

The importance that Singapore places in intellectual property rights is shown in nothing less than the Singapore Trademark Act that was passed in 1998 as a response to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property. The country is also a signatory to a number of international conventions, such as; Berne Convention, Budapest Treaty, Madrid Protocol, Nice Agreement, Patent Cooperation Treaty, The Geneva Act of The Hague Agreement, UPOV Convention, WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and WIPO Copyright Treaty.

The purpose of protecting a trademark through a trademark registration is to discourage unfair competition from companies that seek to confuse consumers with similar or copied marks. To register TM means that a company’s mark registered with trademark registration at Singapore is no longer an unregistered trademark or an unregistered service mark that other competitors can imitate for their benefit. It will be easier to sue companies for infringement, the term for trademark violation, and to receive damages because the burden of proof of ownership will fall on the offender.

Protection of a Trademark

Trademarks that can be protected under the trademark laws include word/s, a combination of words, numerals, letters, symbols, drawings, shapes, colors, and even sounds. There are conditions that must be met, however. Before the owner can apply to register trademark, it must meet the following criteria: the trademark must be graphically represented; it should distinguish the products and/or services of the company from competitors; it should be unique; it should not include descriptions of the products and/or services; and it must be in the customary language. In some countries, features such as taste and smell can be registered, but these are not accepted in Singapore.

When the application for a trademark registration is approved, the owner can enjoy the protection of the Singapore Trademarks Act in the event of an infringement. If there are similar marks that wish to apply for protection, the IPOS operates in a first-to-file policy, which is why it is sometimes recommended to file an application to register trademark before the mark is even used in public. There is also a rule that the owner of the registered mark must use it within five years from the date of the approval so that it cannot be revoked due to non-use.

There are many ways to protect a trademark from infringement that are covered by the laws, which includes the following:

1. Trademark Registration: The first step of course is to protect your brand by registering your trademark. The IPOS handles all the trademark registration application in Singapore, but if you wish to apply for protection in other territories, you could also apply for international trademark registration.

2. Use of Notices: Some unregistered trademarks use the symbol ™ to indicate that they are claiming ownership of the mark. However, the symbol does not mean the trademark is registered. The ® symbol on the other hand, will tell the consumers that it is a registered mark. Trademarks registered with in Singapore that have not been registered or still have pending applications are not allowed to use the ® symbol.

3. Pursue Infringers: Owners with registered marks can actively pursue infringers because they have a strong case against violators. They can also pursue cases such as dilution where the trademark is used to destroy or tarnish the image of a company. This is still considered an infringement.

4. Controlled Licensing: An owner with a registered mark can choose to license the trademark with other parties through an agreement. The owner still has control over the products and/or services of the company and may be compensated monetarily.

5. Owner Responsibility: The owner of the registered mark is also responsible for keeping the image of the company strong and reliable for the consumers. Alterations and additions in the trademark that will confuse the consumers will weaken the trademark and the company’s image, although a family of marks similar to the registered trademark can be created to strengthen its value.

Benefits of a Trademark

A registered mark is protected for ten years from the date of the application and may be renewed indefinitely for another ten years. The trademark registration process in Singapore usually takes between 8 to 12 months, but the benefits are worth the wait.

• Trademark as an Asset: A registered mark is considered an asset and an intangible property of the company. It distinguishes your company from other competitors and can be used to expand or improve your business. It can be sold or licensed to other parties like any other type of property, too.

• Trademark as a Protection: A registered mark will protect the identity of your company. Consumers will recognize your products and/or services right away from among the numerous competitors. It will also serve as a legal protection that will prevent other competitors from trying to confuse your consumers. In case of legal disputes, the registered mark has more advantages than an unregistered trademark, and will cost the company time and money to defend.