How trademarks offer protection

Tuesday November 18 2014

How do your customers identify the goods or services your business offers? I recently bought a lovely scarf at one of the craft markets on Buganda Road. My friend Susan admired it so much that she wanted to get one just like it.

Unfortunately, when she went to the same craft market, Susan found it impossible to find what she was looking for. Without labels or any other form of identification on their products, the scarf-makers are missing out on the opportunity to cultivate repeat customers and to benefit from word of mouth advertising. Their scarves are nameless and can also be imitated by anyone who chooses to. If your goods or services are nameless and thus difficult to identify and protect, you ought to think about using some form of identifier.

What is a trademark?
One form of identifier is a trademark. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines a trademark as a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. It must be distinctive and not misleading. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights and may take many different forms - words, letters, numbers, drawings, symbols or even audible sounds.

Trademarks may be names, logos or drawings that are shown on a product, package, label or company building. Consultants who regularly prepare reports, then your trademark (name/logo/both) should appear on the cover of your reports. Trademarks offer protection and also help people identify the source of goods or services.

Trademarks offer protection
Before your trademark is legally registered, provided it is distinctive and not misleading, you may use the symbol ™ to lay claim to your specific trademark e.g. DMT Consultants™. Once your trademark is legally registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), you gain exclusive rights it. The registered trademark Coca Cola® may only be used by its owner as well as entities the owner has licensed to use it.

The symbol ® announces that the name Coca Cola is a registered trademark. It is a strong form of legal protection that allows you to build a customer base without worrying about similarly named competitor products confusing customers and drawing them away. Once your trademark is registered, you may take legal action against anyone who uses it without your permission e.g. counterfeiters.

Trademarks make your product name memorable
By registering her trademark with URSB, Regina Nakayenga has ensured that no one in Uganda will ever use the name Rena® Hibi Juice® for hibiscus juice. Additionally, when anyone is looking for her product, they ask for it by the name on the bottle. If my scarf had been labelled, my friend Susan would have found it easier to find a similar one in the craft market simply by asking for the name on the scarf label.


Visit URSB to find out if your unregistered trademark meets trademark criteria and start using the symbol ™ after your name/logo as you prepare for trademark registration.