Recently the case of trademark registration between Patanjali and Chennai based firm Ardura Engineering involving usage of the word ‘Coronil’ was all over the news. Patanjali’s immunity booster supplement ‘Coronil’ irked the Chennai based firm which was using its trademarked word ‘Coronil 92-B’ for a long time. The case landed in the Madras High Court who barred Patanjali from using ‘Coronil’ for its product. The Court observed that ‘a simple check with the Trade Marks Registry would have revealed that ‘Coronil’ is a registered trademark.’ This was indeed a big setback for Patanjali.
The above episode may leave us with a question that why did one of the largest firms in India, commit this mistake in the trademark registration process? While there can be many reasons. But one lesson we can take from this incident would be the importance of having foolproof TM strategy for your business.
Moving towards a fool-proof process:
Not registering your trademark can broadly have two consequences. 1) You have no exclusive right on the brand name or mark you are using and any other entity in the market can freely use the same name/mark. Secondly, the trademark registration process gives you an idea of marks that are available for use. So while using unregistered names and logos you may be inadvertently infringing upon someone else’s registered trademark without authorization. This unlawful conduct can lead you into a legal situation that may damage your business image and finances substantially. Thus as a part of a risk mitigation measure and a strong business strategy, it is important to assert control over your brands and assets.
However, even if you decide to register your trademark, there are some crucial points that need your attention. It is quite often that companies commit some common yet avoidable mistakes which could cost them a fortune an also tarnish their brand image. Here are some errors that you must avoid.
Mistakes that need to be avoided in the trademark registration process:
Half baked trademark search: This is one of the most common mistakes that businesses do. Company owners find names that they like, without conducting a proper trademark search. This is like inviting litigation on oneself.
Finalizing a mark without conducting trademark search is a risky way to go about. This may get you embroiled in a legal trademark infringement and/or passing off dispute.
Selecting a weak trademark: A weak trademark is not a good sign for your business. An entity using similar mark can easily challenge it in the long run. For example, descriptive marks that explicitly describe the products or services form weak trademarks. These marks are quite difficult to protect as opposed to fanciful or arbitrary trademarks. Suggestive marks are good trademarks. These do not describe the product as such but give you an idea of what the product is concerned with. For example: ‘Airbus’ (involved in aerospace) and Netflix (movies on the internet).
Not registering a trademark: This can prove to be a grave mistake in the long run. Leaving your mark unprotected throws it open for use for anybody. In fact, some unprotected marks eventually end up as generic marks and lose their right to protection. For example, Aspirin and Cellophane are generic terms now with no trademark registration.
Not enforcing trademark rights: Rights are nothing without enforcement. So after trademark registration, it is important to check if anyone else is applying for the same or similar mark. In case of such registration, the rights of the earlier proprietor would become weak. Also, it is important to ensure that your competitors are not using your registered mark without permission.
Failure to renew: A critical step in the trademark registration process is TM renewal. Trademark registration is valid for 10 years after which it needs to be renewed. This way your trademark can last for as many years you want. So keeping up with the renewal deadlines is as important as registering a trademark.
A trademark that has been registered and has been in use for a considerable amount of time has good chances of winning a legal battle in case of trademark infringement. Registered trademarks can use the ® symbol on their trademark to ascertain their ownership of the brand and warn others to not indulge in illegitimate use of the mark. Moreover, it is highly advisable to take a professional opinion for understanding the trademark process better. A trademark attorney can guide you through the nitty-gritty of the process and give you a good idea of some specific trademark benefits for your business.