What can I trademark?

A trade mark is a sign which is used to make your goods or services stand out. It may be a word, a logo or a combination of both. Perhaps most importantly, a trade mark must not be identical or similar to an existing one. A trade mark will be deemed similar if there is a real likelihood of confusion arising in relation to the existing trade mark and the proposed one.

In order to be capable of registration, a trade mark has to be distinctive. What is distinctive will depend on the goods or services for which the trade mark is intended for use, although the mark won't simply describe the goods or services. A descriptive mark can include a variety of characteristics, such as quality, quantity, value, place of origin or the purpose for which the goods or services are used. A trade mark will also be deemed descriptive if it uses words which are commonly used in the industry the mark is intended for and, in any event, won't help a brand to stand out from competitors.

A trade mark will also be refused registration if it is deemed to be offensive, if it promotes illegal activity or if it is deemed to be deceptive. This could include a wide variety of features and characteristics, although broadly speaking; a deceptive mark is one which would lead consumers to attribute something to the goods or services which they did not possess, such as a particular quality.

In addition to a restriction on being identical or similar to existing trade marks, a trade mark must also not be identical or similar to the flag or emblem of any country, armorial bearings (coats of arms), official signs or hallmarks or the names of any international inter-governmental organizations (such as the United Nations).