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Registration of trademarks is beneficial for business owners as it helps them to protect their goodwill and prevents unwarranted copying and infringement of goods. The Trademark Registration process is laid down under the Trademark Act, 1999 and the Trademark Rules Act, 2017.
The stages of the trademark registration process can broadly be characterized into the following stages:
1. Trademark search:
The first step in the trademark registration process is “Trademark Search“. Trademark Search is a preliminary search conducted to ensure that the proposed trademark does not violate any existing registered trademark and abides by the laws related to the trademark. Thus, before an individual makes an application to register a trademark it is advisable to conduct a trademark search for use of the proposed trademark in connection with certain goods or services.
Advantages of conducting a trademark search are
A trademark search report is generated after a trademark search highlighting relevant details and matches for the proposed trademark.
2. Filing of Trademark Application
After reviewing the trademark search report, an application for the registration of the trademark is filed with the Trademark Registry. The application has relevant details like Logo or the Trademark Name and address of the trademark owner Classification or Trademark Class Trademark used since date Description of the goods or services.
The trademark application is generally filed in the Trademark Office within the jurisdiction of the place of business of the applicant. An application can be filed as either a manual application in the Trademark Office or as an online application through the Online Trademark Search facility.
After acknowledgement of the trademark, a trademark application allotment number and the Trademark applicant can start using the trademark symbol (TM) next to the brand name.
3. Examination of Trademark
After filing the trademark application, the trademark application enters the stage of examination where the designated Trademark Registrar ensures that the application abides by the substantive and procedural laws governing Trademarks. The duration of the examination process ranges from six to eight months from the application date.
The Trademark Registrar issues an Examination Report highlighting the distinctiveness and similarity of the proposed trademark with existing trademarks. In particular, the examination report outlines the objections against the trademark under Section 9 and Section 11 of the Trademarks Act, 1999.
Objections under Section 9 which relates to marks that are descriptive of the goods or its generic nature or quality, can be defeated by showing that the trademark has acquired a distinctive character as a result of being used extensively.
Objections under Section 11 is made when there are identical or similar trademarks in existence in that particular field to which the product relates.
The applicant has to respond to the raised objections within one month from the date of receipt of the Examination Report. If not, the trademark application will be abandoned by the Trademark Registry due to the lack of prosecution.
When a response to the Trademark Examination is accepted, then the trademark is published in the Trademark Journal. And, if the response has not accepted the applicant can request a hearing. If in the hearing, the examiner feels that the trademark should be allowed registration then the trademark is published in the Trademark Journal.
4. Publication in Trademark Journal
After dealing with the objections, the trademark application is published in a Trademark Journal giving the opportunity for the general public to raise any objections related to the Trademark application.
If any concerned third party can file the trademark opposition within three months (with a one-month extension) from the trademark publication date. In case objections are raised against the application, a hearing, if needed is held where both parties are given a fair chance to present their cases. Based on the hearing and the evidence put forward by both parties, the hearing officer will give his judgement.
Any decision pronounced can be appealed before the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.
5.Certificate of Trademark Registration
If there are no objections brought forward within the four months since the publication of the application in the Trademark Journal, the Certificate for the Trademark registration is awarded.
6. Trademark Renewal
The registered trademark is valid for ten years and can be renewed on payment of the renewal fees.