We often imagine a trademark as a logo, however, various marks can be considered to be a trademark, for example, any distinctive words, phrases, letters, numbers, sketches, drawings, forms, colours, logos, labels or the combinations of these components, which distinguish the goods or services, can constitute a trademark. The majority of countries allow registering non-traditional forms of marks, such as colours, three-dimensional marks, moving images, holograms, sounds, smells, movements, sensual marks, and fluid changing marks. However, not all marks constituted of the previously mentioned elements can be registered and protected as a trademark. Legal acts provide the specific trademark registrability requirements. For instance, the mark is not registered as a trademark when:
- The mark has become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and established practices of trade;
- The mark does not have a distinctive character, but is descriptive;
- The mark is likely to deceive the public regarding the nature, quality or geographical origin of the goods and services, or it consists of geographic indications or possesses a geographic indication;
- The mark is contrary to the public policy or morality (e.g. swearwords, obscene drawings, words, images, racist slogans);
- The trademark is identical to celebrity’s surname or name, an artistic pseudonym or other individual’s portrait or it is misleadingly similar to it.
It is also worth to notice, that if one wants to use words like ‘Lithuania’ or ‘Lithuania’s’, country’s coat of arms or its flag in a registered trademark, one will have to obtain a special permission.
The applications may be rejected due to the so-called ‘relative grounds’, when the trademark conflicts with the earlier trademark’s rights. There is a risk, that other individuals have previously registered a trademark for similar goods and services, even if the registration procedure was successful or if you use an unregistered trademark. In this case, the request to be registered trademark infringes the rights of the proprietor of the earlier registered trademark and thus its registration can be refused and its usage can be forbidden. The State Patent Bureau of the Republic of Lithuania examines the trademark to determine whether there are any absolute grounds for refusal of trademark registration. Meanwhile, the relative grounds for refusal are examined when another company protests against trademark’s registration after the date of its publication in the Official Gazette of the State Patent Bureau. Therefore, before registering a trademark and beginning to use it, it is crucial to research the previous trademarks, as this could protect one from later conflicts and possible financial loss.
The registration of a trademark can also be declared invalid if the trademark is identical to a protected industrial design or another industrial property’s object, copyrighted literature, scientific work or artwork. In addition, the registration of a trademark can be declared invalid, when the registered trademark is identical to the earlier registered Community trademark or the registered trademark is misleadingly similar to it.
Thus, when desiring to have a strong trademark, apart from respecting the design and marketing criteria, which help to create and develop your trademark, the legal requirements should be taken into account too. Hence, before the trademark’s registration and its usage assure that:
- The mark meets the requirements for the trademarks
- The mark does not conflict with the previously registered or already existing on the market trademarks
- You have precisely defined the list of the goods and services that is relevant for you and the territory in which you intend to use your registered mark.