What is a trade mark?
A trade mark is a sign that you can use to distinguish your business’ goods or services from those of other traders. Singapore uses the International Classification of Goods and Services, under the Nice Agreement, to classify trade mark registrations. This classification sets out a list of 34 different classes of goods and 11 classes of services that a trader can register in relation to a mark. The full list of classes can be found here.
A trade mark can be represented graphically in the form of your company’s logo or a signature. Through a registered trade mark, you can protect your brand (or “mark”) by restricting other people from using its name or logo. Once acquired, a trade mark can last indefinitely as long as you renew it every 10 years. Because a registered trade mark is a form of property, you can license or assign it to others.
The following can be registered as a trade mark but a mark must be distinctive and capable of distinguishing your goods or services from similar ones of other traders:
or any combination of these elements.
The following are some common examples of marks that cannot be registered as a trade mark:
You can check whether the mark you wish to register is similar or identical to an earlier mark via eTradeMarks.
Trade mark symbols
If you successfully register a trade mark, you are permitted to use the ® symbol next to your mark. Another common symbol associated with trade mark is ™ − this denotes that the mark is being used by the company as their trade mark but it does not mean that the mark is registered or protected under the trade mark law.
There are a number of other types of marks that you might find are appropriate for your business.
The benefits of registering a trade mark
It is not compulsory to register a trade mark in Singapore.
For a mark that is not registered, you can rely on your rights under common law (Common law generally refers to the law based on past decisions and general principles, serving as precedent or is applied to situations not covered by statutes) action of "passing off" to protect your mark against imitation or infringement. This remedy, however, requires you to firstly, prove that reputation or goodwill attaches to the goods and/or services you supply. Secondly, you must demonstrate misrepresentation by a third party as regards the origin of those goods and/or services. And thirdly, you must be able to demonstrate that you have or you are likely to suffer damage by reason of a wrong impression having been created by the misrepresentation by that third party, in the minds of the relevant consumers. The requirement of proving reputation and goodwill may pose some problems where the business, or the use of your trade mark, has not been established for a substantial period of time.
If you register a trade mark in relation to your goods and/or services, you are effectively gaining a statutory monopoly of your mark. As such, if someone else uses your mark or one that’s similar, you may rely on your registration as proof or your right to the mark and sue for infringement. A trade mark can add value to your business because it can be used to protect your market share, you can license it to third parties such as a franchisee or you can sell it outright for a specified value. Finally, you can also use a trade mark to help you to raise equity for the development of your business.
Get Adobe Reader Here