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 Trade mark searching

Trade mark searching: A glimpse into the future?

September 4, 2012

 Trade mark registration is the way to own a brand name, and regular readers will likely appreciate the importance of taking steps to ensure their brands are available, and securing them early on when launching new products or services.

In line with such good practice, businesses typically register trade marks well in advance of their new products hitting the market place, and this can have an interesting side effect: speculation.

The trade mark registers are public, which means that anyone can commission a search to discover whether someone has already claimed rights to a brand name they are considering before they invest on marketing, graphics, websites and so on. This is a central function of the registers, putting others on notice of your rights, and as part of the registration process trade mark applications are in fact advertised in a journal, giving other businesses the opportunity to object if, for example, a mark applied for is confusingly similar to their own.

So, some months before a mark is registered it will be available for inspection, giving journalists a useful source of information when speculating on new product releases. For example, the likely name of a new LucasArts game was ‘leaked’ when the company filed an application to register the trade mark Star Wars: First Assault,  and also registered the domain name; an application for a logo in May offered some insight into the progress made  by Everything Everywhere in rolling out its new 4G services; and Capcom’s filings suggest that the company is developing a new game, Ninja Arms.  The way companies deal with their existing registrations can also shed some light on the lifetime of their products and services, in that failure to renew a registration might be interpreted as a sign that product won’t be on the shelves for much longer.  Similarly, failing to maintain a registration could suggest that a business is in difficulty – recently Sony let its registration for The Last Guardian lapse, taken by some as an indication that the game, in development for some time, will never see the light of day.  On the other hand, it could just be a sign that something has been overlooked by their trade mark representatives.

So, if you suspect that a competitor intends to launch a new lineup, a trade mark search could give you valuable intelligence, by identifying marks they are in the process of registering. On the same note, by applying to register marks you plan to use, you will deter competitors from using similar brands, and reduce the risk of confusion.