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Territoriality Of Trademarks – ‘Think Global, Act Local’

The world is a Global Village today. Boundaries have shrunk, borders are porous and the reach of information, services, products, goods basically trade and commerce is a thought away. Such is the range and span of businesses that they encompass common and generic items such as clothes, shoes and groceries to fancy, expensive and bespoke goods and services overarching continents and time zones. Be it wines from the Napa Valley, Cheeses Fragrances and Chocolates from Europe, Exotic Fruits from the Mediterranean or Herbs, Spices and Sea Food from the Far East, these indulgences are a mouse-click away from a laptop or a mobile. The introduction of ‘cash – on – delivery’ or ‘COD’ in easy installments has played a significant part in making a large chunk of these goods and services further attractive and most importantly, accessible. In the chaos of enterprises and transactions, the one thing that acts as the face of a company or organisation is the Trademark.

Trademarks and their significance:

‘Trade’ has existed since centuries with its first known use in the 14th century. Trade as we know today is a verb which has come to mean: to give something to someone and receive something in return and, to give something in exchange for something else.

‘Mark has its roots in the Latin word ‘Marcus’ known to have been first used in the 13thcentury. Today a mark to the layperson means:

– An impression made on something.

– A sign, a logo, a characteristic, a symbol, used for identification or indication of ownership.

‘Trademark therefore, comes to mean an aspect of the brand such as, a device, word, icon, symbol etc., pointing distinctly to the origin or ownership of merchandise to which it is applied and legally reserved (known as registration of trademarks), to the exclusive use of the owner as maker or seller.

Trademarks act as brand ambassadors of the products and services that they portray. They help in generating and sustaining positive imagery, goodwill, trust and loyalty from their customers and target audience. The passion and brand loyalty that some of the well known brands have garnered over the years is mindboggling.

It is evident that trademarks both conventional such as words, logos, symbols, icons, taglines, slogans and unconventional trademarks incorporating smell, touch, sounds, music, texture, holograms etc., though intangible, are highly prized and valuable assets.

Trademarks ‘work the brand’ as they work towards brand identification, brand association, brand recall and brand loyalty. Once registered, trademarks can be licensed, franchised, mortgaged, pledged as security, bequeathed, sold and perpetually renewed to last centuries as is the case with famous brands known and identified by generations of satisfied users and customers.

Trademarks are protected by way of registration. Trademark law is ‘territorial’ in nature which means, there is no one single ‘global’ trademark law. Trademarks are protected by national laws of particular countries and in some instances by inter-governmental organisations. Applicants desirous of protecting trademarks in countries of choice have to approach those individual countries and inter-governmental organisations for protection via local trademark /intellectual property offices. These offices process and prosecute trademark applications resulting in registrations which accord better and robust rights to trademark users especially in the case of infringement and piracy.

Another aspect to be borne in mind is that trademarks are restricted by classes as classified by the ‘NICE classification’. Applicants have to choose from these classes to identify the specific categories under which their goods and services fall so as to avail protection in those classes only. Applicants cannot obtain sweeping protection in all the classes and squat unless they intend to use their trademarks in those classes.

Trademarks – ‘Think Global Act Local’:

To further and nurture ambitious plans of trademarks users to expand their businesses globally and leverage their trademarks into the rarefied category of ‘Well Known’ marks that are accorded protection to certain extent in many countries despite non-usage in those countries, applicants have to ‘act local’ through obtaining registrations in as many countries as possible so as to minimise deceptive and malafide usage of the crown jewels of their businesses.

I am a Commerce, Computer and Law graduate. I am running my own IT Company since 1993. I like to Read, explore Hindu Sanskruti, Travelling and Riding/Driving.

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