• Trademarks

Trademark: Protection of signs for your goods and services

A trademark is used to identify goods and services of companies. Thus, the legal construct of the trademark serves to protect and distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors or other market participants.

Trademarks are signs you label your goods and services with. They are used to distinguish your goods and services from those of other companies. They serve to identify your brand or company and they are your intellectual property just like patents.

Trademarks are divided into word marks and non-word marks (e.g. logos). A combination of a word mark and figurative elements is possible. Therefore, a trademark may be one word; a string of words, letters, and numbers; an image or logo consisting of multiple graphical elements, words or letters. Besides signs and logos, also the three-dimensional shape which is characteristic for your good and even a sound can be protected as a trademark. Just think of the coca cola bottle or McDonald’s ‘I’m loving it’ slogan.

The prerequisite for the registration of a sign as a trademark is that there are no absolute grounds for refusal. For example, it is not possible to register signs as trademarks if they describe goods or services on their nature, quality, or other properties and features.

The German Patent and Trade Mark Office (GPTO) does not verify a trademark when they lack any distinctiveness means when there is a risk of confusion. The initial term for trademark protection is ten years, which can be extended as often as desired.

Patent law distinguishes the following trademarks:

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Individual mark

Most trademarks that are applied for are individual marks. They identify the goods and services of one company and distinguish from those of other companies. Comprehensive protection is granted by word marks, followed by word / non-word marks, figurative marks, and 3D marks. The largest protection is granted by a word mark. Signs which are distinctive and for which there is no need to keep them free for competitors can be registered as trademarks. We would be glad to check if your logo is registerable.

Take advantage of the registration of a trademark:

labelling of your products or services
positioning on the market
image cultivation
differentiation from competitors
avoidance of a risk of confusion
national, Europe-wide or international protection possible
international application centrally via WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
legal protection

Collective mark

A collective mark is the umbrella term for a category of protectable trademarks. Collective marks are used by companies that have joined together in an association. With a collective mark, the members of the association exclude goods and services of other companies that do not belong to their association. The collective mark serves to identify all products made by the members of the association. Thus, this mark fulfils a double function: it is a distinguishing feature for consumers and it labels products of a particular association of companies.

The application for a collective mark must be made by the association or a legal entity under public law. When applying, a trademark statute comparable to the articles of association must be submitted.

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Guarantee mark

The guarantee mark is a new type of trademark that was introduced in Germany in January 2019 with the Branding Modernization Act. For this type of trademark, which can now be applied for at the German patent and trademark office (GPTO; DPMA), more importance is attached to certification marks. The new regulation serves to strengthen the trademark owners. Test marks (e.g. for fair production conditions, organic production, or special safety standards) are becoming properties worth protecting. In the case of certification marks, the focus is not on identifying the products origin, but rather on the guarantee function. The guarantee function must be directly evident from the trademark as otherwise no registration can be made at the German patent and trademark office.

Certification mark
The certification mark is also known as the Union guarantee mark. This is a trademark that is registered at the EU level. A certification mark can be granted to several companies if their products reach a certain standard. The certification mark indicates that the products in question meet a particular standard. In addition, the certification mark is controlled by a single owner and used by other companies under his control. The EU certification mark is defined as a mark that is ‘capable of distinguishing goods or services which are certified by the proprietor of the mark in respect of material, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services, quality, accuracy or other characteristics, with the exception of geographical origin, from goods and services which are not so certified’. There are two important limitations for an EU certification mark. First, it cannot be owned by a person carrying out a business involving the supply of the goods and services of the kind certified. The owner of a certification mark is precluded from using the mark for the certified goods or services covered. Second, it cannot be filed for the purpose of distinguishing goods or services certified in respect of the geographical origin. Would you like to learn more about trademarks? Then read through the FAQ section, where frequently asked questions are answered briefly and precisely. For individual advice please contact our law firm.
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