A trademark is the means by which a business identifies its services and/or its goods, and how it protects its unique way of presenting its goods and services from other businesses. Examples of Irish trademarks include, Tayto, Kerrygold, DCC, Paddy Power, Musgraves, Dunnes Stores, and soforth. The relevant legislation is the 1996 Trademarks Act, which defines the concept of trademark as being “any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings”. As can be seen from the legal definition, the intention is to protect the intellectual property of the business
owner to the exclusion of others.
The trademark has to have a number of features. It must have a distinctive character and must be capable of registration. It cannot be identical or similar to a trademark already on the Register. The Patents Office has always stressed that the trademark must have distinctive character, or it is likely to be refused.
Trademarks are recorded pursuant to a classification system. Goods and services are categorised into classes, for example, pharmaceutical, financial services, food and drink, and soforth. There are 34 classes of goods and 11 classes of services. The trademark can be registered in respect of one class or within several classes, but each application for a class registration triggers additional fees payable to the Patents Office.
When one wishes to register a trademark, the application form must be completed and lodged with the Patents Office together with the application fee. If the application is accepted, it is published in the official Journal, and thereafter any person who has grounds to object may lodge an objection with the Patents Office within three months (a Notice of Opposition). If a Notice of Opposition is filed, each side can file evidence in support of their case, and it is ultimately decided by an Arbiter in the Office.
Trademark registration is for 10 years, and can be renewed every 10 years thereafter indefinitely, on payment of the renewal fee.
Finally, the applicant can apply simply in Ireland, or in the EU, or internationally pursuant to the Madrid Protocol, which is administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).