To answer this question, we must first distinguish between a company name and a trademark. A company name is the name of the legal entity at the end of the name such as “Ltd.” or Limited. It is distinguishable from a business name which refers to the name that the legal entity, the company, will use to promote its business. A trademark on the other hand is the brand or logo that identifies a product and/or services from other products and/or services of competitors. It also includes specific details of the classes of products and/or services which use that trademark.
Trademark registration does not require you to register your company, however, there is a provision in the intellectual property laws that states a registered trademark must be used for at least 5 consecutive years after receiving the Certificate of Registration. Your rights to the trademark may be ineffective if it has not been used since it was registered.
If you are still in the process of forming the company and have not yet applied for company registration, you can apply for a trademark. In fact, it is recommended for any startup company to do this at the earliest possible time to protect your brand. The validity of the registered trademark will last for 10 years from the date of the application and is renewable.
To register a trademark, a distinct mark must be created. Make sure that the trademark will also be representative of your company name if it is to be used for business. A trademark should not be a surname, geographical name, misleading or confusingly similar with another trademark, and descriptive of the goods and/services alone. A trademark should instead be represented graphically, unique, and is not similar to any existing trademark. Once you have a trademark, you must submit the minimum requirements such as the following: declaration of the purpose and use of the trademark; a request for registration; name and address of the trademark owner; a graphical representation of the trademark; and for businesses, a list of goods and/or services and their classification. Note that the information you submit for the trademark application should not conflict with the information you may wish to submit in case you decide to register the company, too.
Submit all the requirements to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) for review. If there is a deficiency or objection, you will be given time to respond or amend your application. The trademark is then examined for legality and conflicts with existing trademarks before it is advertised for public scrutiny. If the registration is successful, you will be granted the Certificate of Registration.
When starting a business in Singapore, however, you are highly encouraged to register your company, which requires that you include the company name, directors and shareholders, paid-up capital, address, secretary, and tax incentives and exemptions. The first step is to reserve the company name before registration. The process of selecting a name is almost similar to that of applying for a trademark registration. To pick the right company name, it must be different from existing local names, is not reserved, is not offensive, and will not infringe on registered trademarks.