A trademark simply means “Brand.” It can also be seen as a symbol related to a specific product and legally different from other products. Trademarks fall under the three intellectual properties we have. Others include patents and copyright.
Unless you get a trademark for your business, any of your ideas, symbols, and unique branding can easily be copied and used by your competitors because there is no legal evidence that it belongs to you. More of a reason why small business owners need trademarks to protect what belongs to their brands.
What is a Trademark?
Simply put, a trademark is the logo, symbol, words, or phrases that verify the sources of products and services and distinguish products manufactured and sold by a company from those manufactured and sold by another company.
Trademark protection may be used for business names, colors, logos, and even sounds that are figurative of the unique brand. An example is a bite-marked fruit associated with Apple products, which can not be copied by any brand because it has been trademarked.
The main difference between the three intellectual properties is that while Copyright is for creative works like books, a Trademark is basically for business products and a Patent is granted for new products, scientific processes, and technical solutions.
Trademark protection helps to set up a brand for success and in Nigeria, it is valid for 7 years and every subsequent renewal will last for 14 years.
Why small businesses should register for a trademark
Many small business owners associate trademarks with only global top brands. However, that’s an untrue view. A trademark is for all serious businesses regardless of size. It helps small businesses to protect their brand’s identity and prevent infringement of their business name.
Additionally, a trademark will stop the competitors of small businesses from baiting their clients by imitating their brands. And this is one of the most important reasons why small businesses should register for a trademark.
When should a trademark be registered?
It is advisable to register for a trademark before you launch your business. It would be risky if you had already started running your business before applying for a trademark because you may be violating someone else’s trademark.
Therefore, before you start your business, get a unique permanent name, logo, or symbol to represent the image of your brand. And go ahead to trademark all of these elements.
Also, you don’t have to wait for a particular period of the year to register – as you can register for trademark protection any time of the year.
Steps involved in getting a trademark
Contrary to the opinion of many small business owners, getting a trademark for your brand is not a difficult task and is pretty straightforward when you follow the process. You can register for it in the Trademarks, Patents and Designs Registry, Commercial Law Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Nigeria. Here are the required steps:
1. Conducting a research
The first step is to search for the trademark if it is available or has been used by any other brand. Google is the best site to search for the availability of any trademark.
You can then proceed to the application phase once you confirm that it has not been used before.
2. Apply for a trademark
After you submit the application form, the Registrar will issue an acknowledgment. At this stage, you can have the confidence of getting your trademark but not 100% certainty. You will also be required to pay some fees during the application processing. The following are the requirements to provide:
- Your brand identity – either logo, symbols, words, or even sound.
- Name of applicant
- Contact details of the applicant
- Power of attorney appointing an agent to conduct the registration (You can hire a lawyer or accredited agent for this).
After the application, the Registry will accept and register the trademark and issue an acceptance letter to the applicant as evidence of registration before the final stage.
4. Publication and certification
The last phase is the publication of the application in the trademark journal. Through this publication, any person or interested party in the industry would have the chance to protest or object to the registration.
The reason for the opposition will be sent to the registrar within two months of publication. If they can resolve the issue, the applicant will be given a certificate as evidence of registration and completion of all processes after which the applicant has the exclusive right to the trademark.
Benefits of Trademark for small businesses
Trademark registration provides an array of benefits for small businesses. They are
1. It helps to build the reliability of the brand
The first benefit of a trademark is that it helps in building the reliability of a brand. It makes the customers aware of the originality of your product among the competitors.
Also, it creates a unique message about your brand, and thus makes customers feel confident in your brand.
2. It provides the business with an exclusive right to the trademarked item.
As a small business owner, once you apply for a trademark and it has been approved, you have an exclusive right to the trademark items.
You won’t have to run the risk of having your original mark infringed by another business. No company can hijack it from you.
3. It makes your brand recognizable
A trademark right makes your brand to be easily recognized by your customers. Once they see your logo, symbol, or name anywhere, your brand will be the one that pops up in their mind.
For instance, when you see a tick or swoosh on a product, even without the name, the first thing that would most likely run through your mind is the Nike brand.
4. It helps to increase the business visibility
Trademark helps to increase the rate at which a brand is visible to its target audience. It helps to create awareness about your brand and thereby even reaching more people.
5. It boosts sales
When people are aware of your product, and its quality, they will refer more people and this will result in more sales. It will create a lasting imprint in the customer’s memory that they will always patronize even in the nearest future.
In Nigeria, trademark registration grants business owners the right to utilize the registration to prevent infringement, and deliberate copying of the brand’s product and identity by their competitors.
It also makes a brand stand out in the crowded market. If you are a small business owner, you shouldn’t delay your registration after going through this guide.