As intellectual property rights receive more and more attention, trademarks become increasingly coveted, being one of the main forms of intellectual property rights. Gradually, they have become important measures for companies to protect their brands. Nowadays, trademarks can be seen everywhere, from large department stores to street stalls, in all shapes and sizes. However, not all of them are effective trademarks, in fact a large proportion of these trademarks that we see today only bear with them the name of a trademark, but are different from registered ones.
A trademark is a symbol for commercial bodies to distinguish their products and services from those of other companies on the market; a trademark will only become registered after it has gone through the registration procedure authorized by the country’s trademark office, and this bestows an exclusive right upon the applicant to use the registered trademark which is legally protected in that country. In other words, the difference between a trademark and its registered counterpart lies in whether it has undergone review by the trademark office, whether it is legally protected and whether the trademark owner enjoys an exclusive right.
In the following passage, the exclusive right of trademark usage shall be used to distinguish between a trademark and a registered trademark.
The exclusive right of trademark usage is a right enjoyed only by registered trademarks. This right includes the rights of exclusive usage, restraint, transfer, licensing and renewal.
- Right of Exclusive Usage
The right of exclusive usage allows the owner of the registered trademark to use the concerned symbol on any product, services or projects permitted by the trademark office. This right increases the credibility of these products and services in the eyes of consumers. On the other hand, unregistered trademarks often lead to suspicion and distrust towards products bearing those symbols, which affects sales and economic benefit of enterprises.
- Right of Restraint
Without the permission of the trademark owner, any organization or individual shall infringe this right if they use registered trademarks that do not belong to them. In addition, using a same or similar trademark on products which are of the same or similar category as those for which the trademark has been registered for will also amount to an infringement. The same goes for selling products which infringe upon the trademark owner’s exclusive right. All these actions shall be sanctioned by the law. Unregistered trademarks do not possess this restraining power, allowing other organizations or individuals to use those trademarks without authorization. This not only creates confusion amount consumers regarding the genuine source of products on the market, it also creates chaos within the social economic order. Worse still, should the trademark be registered by any organization or individual before being used, all users after registration would be liable for trademark infringement. Such consequences may be dire.
Trademark owners may allow other organizations or individuals to use their registered trademarks through signing a licensing agreement. This, together with trademark transfer, allows trademark owners to receive financial benefits. On the other hand, owners of unregistered trademarks do not enjoy the benefit of profiting from licensing or transferring their trademarks to others.
- Right of Renewal
The effect of trademark registration lasts for 10 years starting from the day of authorization. Trademark owners may go through the procedures within 12 months before expiration to renew their trademarks, each time renewing the registration for another 10 years. Therefore, as long as the procedures are performed in time, trademark owners can possess an effectively registered trademark for as long as they desire. Yet unregistered trademarks do not enjoy this benefit, and users could be charged for trademark infringement at any time, prohibiting them from any further usage.
These are the differences between a trademark and a registered trademark in a nutshell. From this it is suggested that companies or individuals register their trademarks as soon as possible to protect their own rights and brand name.