Rebranding Into Ontology of Value®: On Trademarks and The International Intellectual Property Law. How To Get a Trademark?
Updated on April 10th 2023
October 4th 2021
This text was fully written by humans.
SUMMARY / KEY TAKEAWAYS
In this article: why introduce the concept of a trademark: why is protecting your brand important and how the system behind trademarks work?
We introduce the main types of trademarks and their scope of applications.
We also discuss the application procedure and the associated costs.
Lastly, we discuss our own journey. Due to trademark collision with another brand, we had to change the company name and we subsequently protected our new name, Ontology of Value, with a word sign.
Table of Contents
- Aaand... Rebranding Has Happened! On the International Intellectual Property Law.
- On The International Intellectual Property Law Concerning Trademarks: Why Is Protecting a Brand Important?
- The Main Types of Trademarks and Their Pros and Cons.
- How Much Protection Does a Trademark Give Me In Practice?
- You Should Know How To Handle Your Trademark Protection.
- How To Apply.
- The Story Behind Our Company Name And Trademark.
- Last Words: Building International Property From Scratch.
Aaand… Rebranding Has Happened! On the International Intellectual Property Law.
You might have noticed that we have recently changed our business name! And it didn’t even happen once but twice. Why is this? Well, to answer this question, we need to get into the details of the international Intellectual Property (IP) Law.
What is Intellectual Property? The World Intellectual Property Organization (or, WIPO) is a self-funding agency of the United Nations that curates intellectual property services, policy, and information worldwide.
According to WIPO, Intellectual Property, or IP, means “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce.”
In practice, IP is a broad term. It covers copyrights, patents, trademarks, designs, and trade secrets. Let us assume that you authored a new concept, method, design, piece of art, or original text.
Then, according to the International IP law, you automatically become the sole owner of the associated intellectual property unless you grant another party a license to use it. Of course, in practice, this law is complicated.
For instance, to get protection for your IP, you need to be able to prove that your piece is novel and substantially different from other, protected pieces of intellectual property. And, what does “new” means in practice?
It often needs to be assessed by a committee of independent experts who might or might not grant you the right to be the official IP owner for your creation. Additionally, in some types of intellectual property, such as patents, there are additional requirements, such as technical novelty and innovation on a conceptual level.
Plus, the Intellectual Property space is already so dense that there is less and less space for new authors and businesses to get in.
On The International Intellectual Property Law Concerning Trademarks: Why Is Protecting a Brand Important?
Since we talk about the rebranding of the company into Ontology of Value, we will focus on the trademark law in this article. After WIPO, a trademark is a “sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.”
To businesses, trademarks are of paramount importance. After all, if another business uses similar branding, your customers might get confused which might lead to major losses for the business.
Today, intellectual property gets more and more relevant. In these conditions, one can expect that with time, non-material assets such as brands will also gain in value. More and more businesses recognize that protecting IP is priceless – especially given that, as explained later in this article, the space for trademarks is scarce!
The Main Types of Trademarks and Their Pros and Cons.
A trademark can have a few distinct forms. In particular, it can be a word sign, a figurative sign (in essence, a logo) or a combined sign. (word + logo)
For instance, in our case, the word sign would be the sequence of words “Ontology of Value,” the figurative sign would be our logo (see: the top of this page) and the combined sign would be the combination between the two. Which version is best? Every type of trademark has its pros and cons! To name just a few:
1. Word Sign.
A word sign must be distinctive, not descriptive. For instance, “Coca-Cola” is distinctive as it is an abstract name that is associated with a particular product, and “soft drink with bubbles” is not, as it describes the product using common expressions.
Word signs are naturally more scarce, therefore, harder to protect. Even if there is no other company in your space that protected the same brand name, synonyms or homophones are forbidden as well.
For instance, if you are a producer of soda drinks, Coca-Cola will probably object if you want to register your brand as “Coke-Coke” or “Cola-Ufola.”
On the other hand, though, word signs best protect your intellectual property against unfair competition. Firstly, you become more visible online – which, in today’s world, means everything for your business and your professional development.
Namely, if your brand is protected with a word sign, no one is allowed to trade from a domain registered under a similar address. If you notice such an activity, you can take legal steps to prohibit another party from misleading online advertising.
Furthermore, a word sign is more powerful than a figurative sign. If another party tries to register a figurative sign with a logo containing your protected word sign in its design, you have the right to object to this logo.
2. Figurative Sign.
A logo is much easier to protect than a word sign. However, most companies follow the trends and refresh their logos every few years. In that case, you would need to protect the new logo as well – which means extra expenditure.
Furthermore, if you settle on a figurative sign, other parties would be more likely to get protection for similarly sounding brand names in case their logos are distinctive from yours. Therefore, ideally, it is best to have protection for a figurative, but only after getting protection for a word sign first.
3. Combined Sign.
A combined sign is a hybrid between the two. In that case, other parties can only use signs in which both the name and the logo are distinctive enough from yours. If you believe that another party infringes your rights, your will need to take legal steps to prohibit their commercial activities.
If another party tries to register a trademark which you believe infringes your rights, the associated WIPO office will judge upon the convergence and potential conflict between the signs.
Officially, there are also a few other classes of trademarks such as example, stylized characters but they are much less popular than the aforementioned classes.
How Much Protection Does a Trademark Give Me In Practice?
First to say, in the world of trademarks, all applicants are treated equally. A natural person, a sole proprietorship, or a corporation – first come, first served.
Of course, it is a two-sided sword: what is extremely cheap to a corporation, might be expensive to an individual. Therefore, it s hard to say if trademark protection is expensive or cheap! It all depends on who you are and how deep your pocket is.
Furthermore, the trademark protection is restricted in time; it expires after ten years. You can prolong your protection by paying the fee once again. This system protects the market from the sea of ghost trademarks that would block new businesses from trading.
The specific area of protection for your trademark depends on two major factors:
1. An area where you apply for protection.
WIPO has its local offices in every country. Additionally, the European Union has its own office, EUIPO, which is an umbrella office covering all the countries within the European Union. Once you apply to the local office, you are granted protection for that territory only.
Mind that there are also local differences in the rules of granting trademarks. For instance unlike in European Union, in the US, there are two distinct trademark standards: TEAS Plus and TEAS Standard.
Submitting TEAS Plus application requires complying to more requirements up-front when you submit your initial application than the TEAS Standard application. As a result, you pay a lower fee per class of goods/services.
2. Your area of the market.
Of course, it would be highly suboptimal if a given trademark grants its owner the sole right to trade in all sectors of the market. It is why the whole range of goods and services was divided into 45 Nice classes: classes 1-34 stand for goods while classes 35-45 stand for services.
For instance, if you produce shoes, you should secure your trademark in class #25: Clothing, Footwear, and Headgear. While applying for a trademark, you should specify all classes to which your goods and services belong. Any additional class will add some amount (usually, 150 EUR), to your total bill for the trademark.
You Should Know How To Handle Your Trademark Protection.
There is a huge difference between signs ™️ and ®. The ® sign means that your brand is protected with a trademark. Before your trademark gets officially registered into the WIPO database, you are not allowed to use this sign next to your brand.
However, you can use the sign ™️ instead to indicate that your trademark application is in the process, or that you have the intention of registering a trademark for this brand in the future.
Although intention formally does not prevent you from getting a competition that uses the same brand, in practice, it can discourage other companies from stepping onto your ground.
How To Apply.
First to say, formally, you should only register a trademark for a product or service which you already trade… which is a chicken or an egg problem of sorts.
Namely, once you start trading without a trademark, another party might register it first, and block you from using your own brand (and, some international mafia does this indeed!).
As a rule of thumb, it is good to start trading and apply for a trademark at the same time. Before your trademark is registered, you might use the sign “TM” next to your brand, just to let other businesses know that you are in the process of getting protection and that this brand is already “taken.”
Next, how to check whether your sign of choice is still available? The best way is to use the TMView database, the free online tool to browse through the worldwide trademark registry:
In this database, you can check any key phrases and select WIPO local offices and trademark types of your choice. However, you should be careful with your research! The fact that a given word or combination of words is not found in the database doesn’t mean that your brand is protectable.
As mentioned before, synonyms and homonyms count. Therefore, it is good to get in touch with a specialized patent office and order professional research to make sure that you protect your intellectual property in the right way.
Furthermore, you should give the Nice classes a thought before the application. Once you apply, you cannot add any more classes in the process (you can narrow down or restrict the classes trademark though).
How to apply assuming that you have a plan for your application? Well, if you aim for worldwide protection, you can apply to 109 countries using the International Trademark Registration. It can be costly though, as the bill for all countries can be in a range of 30,000 EUR+.
That’s why most businesses choose local offices in the countries where they have headquarters. This makes things way cheaper. For instance, in the member states of the European Union, a trademark application for a single class is only 250 EUR.
You can apply as an individual person, as a legal person, or denote a legal representative to apply. Once you receive a trademark, you can also transfer it to another individual or to a legal person without additional fees.
Also, mind that the brand name is not the same as the company name! One company or an individual can own a portfolio of brands. Furthermore, a company name doesn’t formally need to be a brand; it just needs to be stated on invoices.
Once you applied, your application first appears in the trademark registry. Other parties then get three months’ time to object to your application if they believe that it infringes their own intellectual property.
Of course, it is only the owners of other trademarks who have the right to object – the unprotected brands don’t have a say, unless they can prove that they were already trading under the same sign before you applied.
In case of an objection, you have time to come to terms with the other party and work out a compromise. It is called a “cool-off period.” If for some reason, this is impossible, then the WIPO office representatives take the lead and make a final decision upon the course of the application.
If there is no objection, your trademark should be officially registered within a few weeks. Overall, you can expect to be granted the trademark about six months from the day of your initial application.
The Story Behind Our Company Name And Trademark.
In our case, after two years of operations, we found out that there is another company based in another member state of the European Union that shares a part of our original name, “Welcome Solutions” and protected a number of trademarks accordingly.
Fortunately, we found a compromise together with their legal representative – who was the kindest person ever – and we decided to look for another name for the business.
So, we started looking for a new name. Initially, we thought of “Odyssey Careers” and we gave the company this working name. After all, “odyssey” represents a journey, and refers to an amazing, classic story of an epic personal development.
Unfortunately, professional research has soon revealed that multiple businesses in the area of the European Union, including the Benelux countries, already use the term “odyssey” or its translations in their brand names. Therefore, this name was burnt for our business development strategy too.
Fortunately, two years time is a nice time frame to think about rebranding. Once starting a business, you cannot be sure what your business model will eventually become.
After two years, however, you can look back and pick a name that best summarizes what you’ve done so far, what your purpose and mission are and what your business development plan is
This is why we decided to name the company “Ontology of Value.” To us, this journey is all about helping professionals and teams uncover their natural strengths and foster value, teach them how value flows in the job market and how to build and aggregate value at work and in life. And doing all that together 🙂 You can learn more about our mission and vision here.
Rebranding cost us a lot of effort to re-evaluate the possibility of registering a new word sign and granting a trademark. In addition, we had to update many company documents due to a change in the company name. But we knew that to businesses, trademarks are of paramount importance.
Intellectual property gets more and more relevant today. So we can expect that with time, non-material assets such as brands will also gain in value. More and more businesses recognize that protecting IP is priceless. At this point, we would like to underline that knowledge of IP protection can be considered an element of your professional development.
Last Words: Building International Property From Scratch.
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Please cite as:
Bielczyk, N., Piekarz, M. (2021, October, 4th). Rebranding Into Ontology of Value®: On Trademarks and The International Intellectual Property Law. How To Get a Trademark? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/the-rebranding-of-ontology-of-value-on-trademarks-and-the-international-intellectual-property-law-how-to-get-a-trademark/
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