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A Beginner’s Guide to Registering for a Trademark

You may have heard or seen trademarks being used in a lot of products and services all over the world. But what is a trademark?

A trademark is simply any letter, word, signature, number, device, brand, heading, label, shape, color, or packaging aspect used in any business or trade that distinguishes a person’s goods and/or services over others’ goods and/or services.

How to Identify Trademarks

The most commonly used symbols are ™ and ®. While they seem similar at first, they are actually used differently. For instance, ™ only identifies that a product/service is being used as a trademark by the owner, but is not necessarily registered under trademark law.

Meanwhile, ® is used to refer to a trademark that is both registered and protected under existing trademark laws.

The 1998 Trade Marks Act

In 1998, the Singaporean government passed the Singapore Trade Marks Act. Within this act, the protection of trademarks take on these key features:

  • Trademarks must be capable of being represented graphically, no evidence of use required;
  • No time limit for filing for registration; and
  • The search for prior rights now covers services closely related to the goods for which registration is filed for.

Currently, Singapore is a signatory to several relevant international copyright and intellectual property conventions, including the Paris Convention, Berne Convention, Budapest Treaty, WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and many others.

Why Register For a Trademark?

Although registering for a trademark isn’t mandatory, having a trademark adds value to your business as a whole. A registered trademark gives you the statutory right to use that mark as well as avail of the key benefits that include registration, including:

  • exclusive use
  • benefiting from its increased market value
  • quality assurance and branding by recognition
  • license for commercial use by third parties
  • a maximum of 400% tax rebates under Singapore’s Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme

As of April this year, Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office has reduced fees for those looking to register a trademark in Singapore, with owners using a pre-approved list of goods and services receiving a discount of up to thirty percent.

Even though renewal fees will increase, owners are reassured of a resulting net cost reduction from the fee adjustment, especially when the process of protecting a registered trademark is considered.

What Can You Register?

In Singapore, as long as your mark is distinctive, you can register letters, words, names, labels, devices, tickets, shapes, and even colors.

However, you may not register the following:

  • descriptive marks (e.g. “best”, or “cheap”)
  • marks that can be confused with, or are similar or identical to, other existing marks
  • marks that may be deemed as immoral or offensive
  • marks that don’t distinguish your goods or services from others’ in the market

How Do You Register for a Trademark?

These are the following steps involved in the trademark registration process:

Step 1. Identify your goods and services. Before deciding to file an application, you must first need to classify what kind of goods and/or services you offer. Under the International Classification of Goods and Services (IGCS), the different kinds of goods may be classified from 1 through 34, while services are registered from 35 to 42.

Step 2. Search for any possible conflicts. Applications for trademarks are not refundable, and any conflicts with existing trademark will result in the application being classified as “Withdrawn”. To avoid this, it is recommended that you conduct a search of existing trademarks to make sure that no prior trademark identical or similar to yours exists.

Step 3. File your application. Once you’re certain that no prior existing trademark could come into conflict with yours, proceed to file the application. The application may be delivered to the Registry of Trademarks by hand or mail, but they can also be delivered online.

Step 4. Wait as your application is checked for completeness and compliance. Should there be any grounds for objection, the Registry will notify you about the needed corrections and give you a time period to overcome any objections.

Step 5. Your application will be examined for any conflict with existing trademarks, legal conflicts, and advertised for public scrutiny. If there are objections found as a result of this search, your application will be rejected and you will have to modify the trademark and submit a new application.

Your application will also be examined to make sure that there are no legal conflicts with regards to your application. After this examination, it will be published in the Trademarks Journal, where it can be opposed within the span of two months.

Step 6. If no one contests within the span of two months after application, or if you win the opposition hearing within the said time span, a Certificate of Registration is issued and the trademark is granted protection for ten years.

Congratulations! Your product/s and/or service/s is now registered. This registration is valid until ten years, and can be renewed indefinitely.