• TM Registration

Does a start-up company need to register trademark?


A startup company in Singapore, whether owned by a citizen or a foreigner, is not required to register a trademark. However, there is a provision that stipulates you must reserve your company name before it can be registered. One of the requirements is to come up with a company name, but the process is not as simple as writing down any set of words. The name must be different from any existing company names, is not obscene, is not already reserved for company registration, and will not infringe any existing trademarks. This is nearly similar to applying for a trademark.

There is no law that obliges a startup company to register a trademark, but the last condition for coming up with a company name is a good indication that your company should register for a trademark once the name has been approved, for the following reasons:

  • exclusive use of the brand
  • increase in market value which will put your new company at a good advantage over competitors
  • easy recognition by the public and assurance of quality
  • possible tax rebates; and
  • the ability to license and profit from use by third parties.

To come up with a good company name, you must also think of it as a possible trademark. To be able to register the brand without any problem, the trademark must have the following qualities:

  • the trademark must be represented graphically
  • the trademark can distinguish the company’s goods and/or services from others
  • trademark is distinct
  • trademark is not just descriptive, and
  • trademark must not be similar to any existing trademarks.

Please note that there is no time limit for filing a trademark registration as stated in the 1998 Trade Marks Act of Singapore. Startup companies can file for a trademark application right away even without prior use. Before coming up with a company name, however, you should search for any similar or identical company names in the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) system. You cannot start to register for a trademark if you have not yet registered your company name. Company name registration is required if the ongoing activity is done for profit and you are at least 18 years old.

Why are all these information important for any startup company? Refer to the case of the first loan disbursement in June 2016 to a footwear company where three financial institutions supported the move. The company was bought in 2012 and got a financing scheme for new product development. They were able to combat copycats because the trademark was protected by the laws. Additionally, the financial assistance for any startup company was of great help because it is supported by the Registry.

For more details on how to register a company, please refer to the rules written in the Singapore Companies Act and the guidelines provided by ACRA. For details on how to register a trademark, please refer to the guidelines posted by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) website.