What is a trade mark?
Trademarks are brand identifiers. According to the International Trademark Association, “A trademark may be any word, name, slogan, symbol, device, package design or combination of these that serves to identify and distinguish a product from others in the marketplace.” Sometimes you can trademark sounds, colors or even smells. If someone else attempts to distribute products using something “confusingly similar” to your trademark, you have the legal right to protect yourself and stop them.
Many of us do not realize that we deal with trademarks on a daily basis. In other words, “Trademark” is another way of referring to brands.
Besides helping the owner of the Services or products to market their products, trade mark helps the consumers to identify, choose and finally purchase a product or Service because of its quality as has been displayed by the Trade/Service Mark over the years.
Consumers’ purchasing decisions are therefore influenced by trademarks and the reputation such brands represent. It is important for business people to have an understanding of why trademarks are important assets and help grow their business.
Trade mark registration in Tanzania
In Tanzania trade mark registration is governed by the Trade and Service Marks Act, 1986 and Trade and Service Marks Regulations, 2000.
Trademark applications must be filed with the Tanzanian Trademark Office in a prescribed form. Currently, it is not possible to make online filing. The rights granted after registration dates back to the date of filing of the application.
In most cases, the Tanzanian Trademark Office requests for evidence of registration from other countries before accepting registration. Three dimensional marks can be registered in Tanzania upon providing proof of registration from other countries.
The first registration period granted is seven (7) years. The term of registration can be indefinitely renewed for further ten (10) years after expiry of original registration or of the last renewal of registration
Any natural person, firm or other kind of legal entity may apply for trademark registration. A trademark may have several proprietors (joint applicants, joint owners). Applicants not residing in Tanzania must appoint a trademark agent residing and practicing in Tanzania.
Upon filing of an application for registration of a trade and service mark and the payment of the prescribed fee, the Trademark Office conducts an examination to be made as to–
(a) conformity with the formalities required under the Trade and Service Marks Act; (b) The conformity of the trade and service mark in accordance with the provisions of the Trade and Service Marks Act; and
(c) whether the trade and service mark is required to be associated or some words or devices are required to be disclaimed.
If upon the examination it appears that the applicant is entitled to registration of his trade or service mark, the Trademark Office accepts the application and causes the trade or service mark to be advertised in the Trade and Service Marks Journal. If upon the examination, the Trademark Office objects to the application, it will notify the applicant in writing of the objections and will give him 30 days to submit his comments or to request a hearing, and if the applicant fails to submit his comments or requesting for hearing within the time allowed, he will be deemed to have withdrawn his application.
Here are among the top reasons of why trademarks are important to your business.
Registration of a Trade and Service Mark is not a mandatory requirement, provided in using an unregistered mark one does not interfere with the rights of the registered Trade and Service Mark owned by another. Registration of a mark gives exclusives rights of use to the applicant of that Mark, and this exclusive right is extended for the period of seven years and renewable ten years consecutively.
A person using an unregistered mark is most likely going to infringe a register red mark and is at risk of facing legal action which in the final analysis can make him/her bankrupt due to heavy penalties imposed against him/her. So, the best advice to manufacturing and the trading community is to play safe by registering their trade and Service marks in order to avoid those repercussions.
Trademarks are an effective communication tool. In a single brand or logo, trademarks can convey intellectual and emotional attributes and messages about you, your company, and your company’s reputation, products and services.
Your trademark doesn’t need to be a word. Designs can be recognized regardless of language or alphabet. The Nike “Swoosh” design is recognized globally, regardless of whether the native language is Swahili, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Arabic or English.
Trademarks make it easy for customers to find you. The marketplace is crowded and it’s hard to distinguish your business from your competitors. Trademarks/brands are an efficient commercial communication tool to capture customer attention and make your business, products and services stand out.
Customers viewing a trademark immediately know who they are dealing with, the reputation of your business and are less likely to look for alternatives. Your brand could be the critical factor in driving a customer’s purchase decision.
Trademarks allow businesses to effectively utilize the Internet and social media. Your brand is the first thing customers enter into a search engine or social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) when looking for your products and services.
Higher traffic on a website or social media platform translates into higher rankings, bringing even more traffic, more customers and more brand recognition.
Trademarks are a valuable asset. Trademarks can appreciate in value over time. The more your business reputation grows, the more valuable your brand will be.
Trademarks provide value beyond your core business. Trademarks can lead the way for expansion from one industry to another, such as from personal care to clothing or eye ware. If you desire it, your trademark can lead to the acquisition of your business by a larger corporation.
Trademarks are a property asset, similar to real estate, that can be bought, sold, licensed (like renting or leasing) or used as a security interest to secure a loan to grow your business.
Trademarks can make hiring easier. Brands can inspire positive feelings in people’s minds. As a result, employment opportunities are more attractive to candidates. Employee retention can be higher if employees have positive feelings for the brand and the products and services offered.
All in all, brands are a critical asset. Do your due diligence before investing a lot of time and money in launching a new brand. Be sure the brand fits your company. Obtain a clearance search to make sure your new brand is available and doesn’t infringe on anyone’s prior rights.
Failing to research a brand before adopting can lead to denial of registration, or worse, a cease and desist letter from another brand owner. Spending the time and money up front to determine whether a brand is available will help avoid the very high costs of a dispute or litigation.
Keep in mind that the more you differentiate your brand from others in your industry, the easier it’ll be to protect. Choose a name and logo that distinctly identify your business and will protect it from competitors.
Post registration issues on trade and service mark
1.It has to be renewed after seven years, this renewal runs for ten years and then renewed.
2.Assignments where the owner of the mark decides to assign it to someone else; this has to be communicated to the Registrar.
3.Any change of name or address is to be communicated to the Registrar.
4.Mergers, Registered users and any other changes should be communicated to the Registrar.
Prepared by Veneranda Sumila with Assistance from the internet
Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF)
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