Running a business means continuously learning about different ways to grow your business and ways to protect your business, for example, learning about partnerships and the legal aspects of running a business.
Trademarks are the subject today because a small business (Cydnie Lunsford of SKKN+) in the US made the news as she lost her business and brand of 5 years to billionaire and business owner Kim Kardashian over the latter's newly launched business (SKKN BY KIM). Why?
The SKKN+ brand did not put her brand first and did not trademark her brand even after 5 years of operation. US influencer, Kim Kardashian (SKKN BY KIM) woke up one day and started her brand in the same name SKKN unknowing to her that a small business in New York had the same name she trademarked and launched. The bottom line of this news is that the small business has lost all her years of hard work because of a small error, and it has cost her everything.
Today our focus is on the reality above as it affects so many small businesses; let's examine the following: What a trademark is, how do you get a trademark and the basics of trademark laws, and when should you consider registering a trademark to protect your business and brand?
What is a trademark, and why should you even care?
The term trademark refers to a recognizable phrase, word, or symbol that denotes a specific product and legally differentiates it from all other products. A trademark exclusively identifies a product belonging to a particular company and recognizes the company's brand ownership.
In simple English, a trademark is a word, phrase, or logo that identifies the source of goods or services and differentiates the goods made or sold by a company from those made or sold by another company.
From the moment you create a business, you should put yourself and your brand first in anything you do, including protecting essential aspects of it. What this means is:
- Registering your business as an entity (Getting a CAC certificate)
- Trademarking and branding your design assets
- Trademarking your business name
- Trademarking the name of your products and services.
Note: copyrights are to creative works (This includes books and artworks), and trademarks are to business products, names, logos etc.
How do you get a trademark, and what are the basics of trademark laws in Nigeria?
The basics for a trademark to be registrable, the mark must contain one of the following:
- the name of a company, individual, or firm represented in a unique or particular manner;
- the signature of the applicant for registration or some predecessor in his business;
- an invented word or invented words;
- a word or words having no direct reference to the character or quality of the goods, and not being according to its ordinary signification a geographical name or surname;
- any other distinctive mark;
The following are required for the registration of a trademark in Nigeria.
- Details of the applicant/proprietor – including name, nationality,
- Prints or a representation of the proposed trademark.
- Class and specification of goods or services for which the trademark is to be registered.
- Authorization of Agent (Power of Attorney) signed by the applicant and where the applicant is a body corporate, by an officer duly authorized to do so. No legislation or notarization of this document is required.
Duration And Renewal
Trademarks are registered for an initial period of seven years from the date of the application for registration. After this, the trademark certificates can be renewed for subsequent periods of fourteen years.
The Registration Process
Step 1: Availability Search; conduct a trademark search before you settle on a business name and/or logo.
Here, Google is your best friend and other search engines and browsers. First, find businesses that could potentially be using your intended business name or product name. The outcome of this search is to determine whether or not your business name is eligible.
Bonus: Remember also to do a domain name search; you never know–someone else could be using your ideal domain. It costs a ton of money to buy it.
Step 2: Trademark application
If after your search, your intended name is available and eligible, you can then proceed with your application. Upon receiving your application, the Registrar will issue an Acknowledgement Form confirming the receipt of the application by the Registry and the temporary number allocated to the trademark, pending registration and allocation of a permanent registration number.
If your application is deemed registerable, an Acceptance Form will be issued. This is usually within 3 weeks after the issuance of the Acknowledgment. Otherwise, a Refusal Form will be issued. After acceptance, the application will be published in the Trademarks Journal to notify any interested party who may have an objection to the registration.
Step 3: Opposition
Once the proposed mark has been advertised, any interested party may file an objection by giving a notice of opposition within two months of the publication in the trademark journal
Step 4: Issuance of certificates
Where there are no third-party objections to the registration of a trademark within the opposition period or where the objections are resolved in favour of the applicant, the Registrar shall issue the applicant with a Certificate of Registration.
When should you consider registering a trademark to protect your business and brand(Benefits)?
It's crucial that you understand as a small business owner, trademarks can help protect your business from infringements, especially in your industry.
Let me paint a picture to help you understand even more about how having a trademark for your product especially is essential.
Imagine creating a new pattern and dress style, and you sell it to the target audience accessible to you; the business is doing well. Then out of nowhere, a high-end designer starts making the exact same thing you make in their own name, it sells double the price of yours, and because it wasn't trademarked to you–you can't exactly sue them, and all you can do is clamour online.
We were hoping you could think of a trademark as a golden bucket that protects your intellectual property while running a business.
Note: The Kippa content team members are not certified lawyers or legal professionals, and we cannot give you advice on these subject matters. Although what we have done in this post is provide you with detailed information from ample research. If you need more professional insight on trademarking and the like, please be advised to always seek legal advice from a licensed attorney.
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