Only when a trademark is successfully registered does the trademark owner have the exclusive right to use the mark for the protected goods or services. And only then can one legally pursue others with a claim to forbearance or claim for damages when the other has infringed on one’s own trademark right. This is important because only in this way can the competition be kept at bay; in addition, one avoids that confusion about the brand (trademark) arises. A clear classification of trademarks provides customers, employees, and stakeholders security and orientation in ever more rapidly changing markets. And that should be protected — particularly as a protected, known, and successful trademark represents a significant value for the company.
Essentially, there are eight different forms of trademark
- word mark,
- combined word and figurative mark,
- figurative mark,
- three-dimensional mark,
- tracer mark,
- color mark,
- sound mark, and
- other types of marks.
The protection of the word mark, which consists of words, letters, numbers, or other characters (governed in section 7 of the German Trademark Act), is quite important. With the protection of the name as a word mark, one acquires the best possible commercial legal protection for many business situations. Figurative marks consist of pictures, graphical elements, or images; however, without word elements. The combined word and figurative mark is a combination of a word mark and a figurative mark. These three forms are especially important when it comes to naming and for visualizing the brand.
Not every word and every image can be arbitrarily protected. The trademark offices check during registration of trademarks whether absolute obstacles to protection exist. These are, for example, when the trademark lacks distinctiveness, consists of descriptive terms that must be kept free for general use, is liable of misleading the public, contains state emblems, or is contrary to public policy or the accepted principles of morality. Trademark offices do not necessarily examine the relative obstacles to protection and, with them, the question of whether the mark to be registered infringes on existing protected rights of third parties. It depends on whether, in the respective country, at the trademark office, only the absolute obstacles to protection or also the relative obstacles to protection are viewed. After submitting a request for protection, there is a time limit for filing an objection, during which owners of older rights can dispute the trademark registration of another mark. After a successful registration, however, owners of older trademark rights can still submit an objection against a younger mark. Therefore, sound trademark research concerning the desired name is so important in advance of registering the trademark.