A Trade Mark is a sign, which can be represented graphically and which acts as an indication of origin and quality of a product or a service. Trade marks are powerful business tools and may take various forms, such as a word, a logo, a shape, a sound or even a scent. To protect a Trade Mark, it is required to have it registered in the jurisdiction you wish it to be protected, although there may be some common law rights which do not require registration. However, registered rights have a more secure footing and may be ‘easier’ to enforce than unregistered rights.
Trade Mark protection is necessary because having invested resources and time in developing and marketing your product or service, it is equitable that customers (or potential customers) should recognize your product or services as originating from your company, and not anybody else, and should not be confused by anyone else’s branding as if it represents something coming from your company. In addition, since it is a property right, a Trade Mark can increase the value of a business.
As would be expected, it sometimes becomes necessary to safeguard against misuse of one’s trade mark , or passing off of goods, as not enforcing it can cause a trade mark to become generic. On the one end typical Trade mark cases may involve institutions which wouldn’t be normally be associated with trade marks.
In Wisconsin, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in the village of Sister Bay is renown among the locals of being vigilant in enforcing its trade mark “goats on a roof of grass “. The restaurant doesn’t only make good food, if you are to believe this article, but its also a tourist attraction that draws people, some of whom take pictures of the goats. Inevitably, there are those who have tried to copy this unique branding.
At other times, it may be necessary to object to a Trade mark that is similar / identical to your own, if its use / registration was in bad faith, or takes unfair advantage of the distinctive repute of your trade mark or is likely to cause “dilution” of your trade mark or damage the goodwill in your mark. A good example (albeit with a twist) is this story over Hard Rock trade marks.