A growing business needs more than just an effective marketing and advertising strategy because consumers want to look for brands that they can trust. Your company’s image, the range of clientele, and your reputation among consumers and competition can go a long way, and that is where branding or trademark comes in handy.
Knowing the differences between an unregistered and a registered trademark in Singapore can help you decide which is best for your company.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark refers to the design, symbol or phrase that distinguishes a product or service from others. In some cases, the trademark might also refer to the service mark or the work, phrase, or symbol that identifies the source of the goods or service rather than the products themselves. Distinguishing your products from those of your competitors creates a brand but it is also a method to protect your brand from copycats. Examples of trademarks, regardless if it is a registered TM or not, are logos, brand names, slogans, patterns of shapes or colors, and catchphrases. A registered mark is similar to patents and copyrights, because they are all protected by intellectual property rights. However, you need to record trade marks for your brand in Singapore to fully enjoy the protection of the law. Once you get to register your trademark, it will not expire unlike the patents and copyrights which are only covered within a term of years. Trademarks can be used for a long time through continuous use and renewal of registration after several years.
What is an Unregistered Trademark?
It is not mandatory to for any company to register trademark in Singapore. It is still called a trademark and is even protected under the common law rights if it is an established brand for years. However, an unregistered trademark cannot be protected from copycats and frauds that want to take advantage of the popularity of the brand. The company cannot also claim legal ownership, ask for compensation, and even place the symbol ® on the brand name or logo, which means registered sign. The unregistered trademark can only use ™ or SM, which will also indicate the intent to apply for trademark registration in Singapore.
What is a Registered Trademark?
A brand that has been approved for trademark registration is protected by the intellectual property rights law in Singapore, but the company can also apply to register the trademark internationally. The local coverage of the trademark means that the owner has exclusive use of the trademark nationwide. The company also has the exclusive rights to enjoy all the benefits of the registered mark and can pursue copycats and frauds if there is an infringement.
Pros and Cons of a Registered Mark
A registered mark not only differentiates you from your competitors and creates a trusted brand for consumers, but it also has several other benefits such as the following:
1. The public will easily remember your products and/or services especially if you have a good reputation among clients/customers and vendors.
2. The registered mark may be used for additional revenues through franchising. This means that you can allow other parties to sell products and/or services as long as they pay you for the use of the trademark registration.
3. Trademark registration will discourage other parties from taking advantage of your company’s reputation to sell their own products or services. You are protected by the laws from infringement and will be recognized as the sole owner of the trademark. This means that the copycat will carry the burden of proving that they did not use your trademark or used a nearly-identical trademark to sell their products or services.
4. If you register TM, you are also making an addition to one of your company’s assets. Remember that a registered mark is also an intangible property that can be sold, licensed, and assigned. So, why is it a form of property? The registered mark is attached to the reputation of the business or company, unlike an unregistered trademark that cannot separate independently from the company that uses it.
5. You need a trademark registration if you want to protect your brand overseas. Intellectual property rights are territorial, which means that when you register TM in Singapore, your company is only protected in the country. However, you can make use of the Madrid System to protect your brand outside of Singapore. This is helpful for companies that want to expand outside the country or are already selling their goods and/or services elsewhere. It will be easier to get compensation for counterfeit trademarks that hope to take advantage of a foreign business’s reputation.
There are also some disadvantages to trademark registration because the owner needs to show proof when renewing the registration that the trademark has been used continuously for the past five years since its registration. This problem can easily be averted if the company is still using the trademark. The trademark registration fee and the application and renewal processes might also be a hassle because of the number of requirements. However, trademark registration is a lot easier than pursuing an infringement or protecting yourself from infringement.
There might also be problems when it comes to changing the trademark, because the company must apply for a new trademark registration in Singapore. At best, these disadvantages are just minor problems that can be solved if you know the registration process and have completed all the requirements, such as defining the goods or services covered by the trademark. Oppositions to the application can also happen, but these are rare occurrences.