What is a trademark?
Trademarks bring significant value to a business. A properly protected, used and enforced trademark is a foundation for a strong brand. Trademarks play a central role in marketing by giving value and reputation to the products or services they represent.
Your trademark registration gives you, the owner, an exclusive right to use the trademark. It also gives you the right to prevent others from using similar marks in business for the same goods or services. A trademark must be distinctive, which means it may not describe the kind, quality, use, or any other aspect of the goods or services it represents. Another requirement is that it may not be confusingly similar to other traders’ trademarks.
You can obtain an exclusive right to a trademark by registering it or by establishing it though use. A more straightforward and less expensive strategy to secure your exclusive right is by registration. Practically anything that can be given a graphical representation can be registered as a trademark, such as words, figures, sounds, colors, scents, three-dimensional signs, moving signs, slogans and numbers. The visual look serves to attract consumers and distinguish the mark from your rivals.
You may apply for a trademark to a national office, which in Finland is the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. If you want to protect your trademark in the EU, you may apply for an EU trademark, which is more cost-efficient. A trademark registration is valid for 10 years, and can be renewed every 10 years.
National trademark registrations
The right to a trademark is regional, which means that a trademark registration takes legal effect only in the country where the mark is registered.
To have a trademark registration, you file an application with the registration officials of the country where you want to have your trademark in force. In Finland, the office examining whether your application qualifies for registration is the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. In order to be registered, your trademark must meet some requirements according to national laws. These requirements include, for instance, that the trademark is distinctive and differs from prior registrations. Although the classification of trademarks is quite harmonized through international agreements, there is some room for differing interpretations in different countries. The scope of examination performed by national officials may vary by country; in some countries, prior trademark rights are automatically examined, while other Offices do not examine the prior rights at all. We recommend that you keep a regular watch on new national registrations in different countries. Our enforcement service is an excellent way to secure your rights.
National trademarks are valid for 10 years and can be renewed every 10 years. A trademark will give you an exclusive right to use your mark, and a right to prevent others from using your mark in commercial activity.
European Union trademark (EUTM)
The EU trademark is a good and cost-efficient tool to gain protection throughout the European Union by filing a single application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). To be registered in the EU, the EU trademark must meet the requirements for registration, and you have to specify the goods and services you intend to sell under your trademark in the application, in accordance with the Nice classification system.
The scope of protection of the EU trade mark is indivisible, which means the mark will be valid in the entire EU region. You can’t apply for protection in any specific member state, and even a single barrier for registration in any one of the member states will prevent you from having an EU trade mark registration, or serve as a basis for invalidation of your registration even if it’s been already granted.
An EU trademark is valid for 10 years from the date you file the application, and you can renew the registration every 10 years.
An international trademark is a cost-efficient tool to protect your rights in several countries by filing one application. The system is based on international agreements and enables you to apply for a trademark in nearly 100 countries at the same time. To file an international trademark application, you must already have a national right as a basis for your international registration. You also need to name the countries in which you want to have your trademark protected at the outset in the application, but with the option to extend or limit your list of the countries later. Due to the centralized management, you can efficiently save costs by filing an international trademark application.
Both Finland and the EU have joined the Madrid System. This enables you to use a Finnish trademark or an EU trade mark as the basis for international registration. You can also name the EU in the international trademark application to have your trademark valid in the entire EU region.
Learn about trademarks in Russia, Eurasia and CIS countries here.