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Understanding Trademarks: What Can Be Trademarked and What Can’t?


Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Kanakkupillai

Trademarks are identifiers of goods. Brand awareness depends on them. Success in the very competitive market of today depends on a distinctive and identifiable brand identification. Trademarks let a product or service stand out from others on the market, therefore facilitating client identification and memory of a brand.

Establishing and maintaining a strong brand presence depends on companies having effective trademark protection, therefore guaranteeing long-term success and development. Understanding what can be trademarked and what cannot help companies to properly safeguard their brand and keep a competitive advantage. This blog seeks to provide a whole picture of the subject, investigating the many facets of trademark protection and its relevance in the corporate environment.

What Can Be Trademarked?

A wide range of traits can be branded to protect a brand’s character and separate it from competitors. These include:

  • Product or service names: These could be names of particular items like “McVEGGIE” or names of services like “Reliance Power.” Product names, company names, and names of people or surnames may all be trademarks—any name that sets one economic activity apart from another.
  • Slogans, logos, and symbols are graphic expressions of a brand. Unique designs like the Nike “swoosh” or the McDonald’s golden arches may be logos and icons. Slogans, like “Just Do It” for Nike, are brief sentences capturing the idea or goal of a company.
  • Taglines and brand names are memorable sentences used to communicate the essence of a business. Taglines combined with logos and symbols help to create a coherent brand image. For Capital One, “What’s in your wallet?”; for BMW, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
  • Colors, sounds, and smells: These might be unique sounds like Yahoo!’s yodel or odors like those of a certain brand of perfume. If colors are unique and connected with a certain brand, like Coca-Cola’s red hue, they may also be trademarked.
  • Products like the Coca-Cola bottle or the design of a brand like the Apple logo may have forms and designs that define them. If unusual and non-functional, shapes and designs may be patented.

In summary, any mark that separates a business action from another and can be clearly displayed can be recorded. This includes names, brands, symbols, themes, taglines, sounds, smells, colours, and shapes or designs.

What Can’t Be Trademarked?

Several types of elements cannot be protected due to their underlying nature or the possibility of confusion:

  • Common words and phrases: These are general terms that describe a product or service and cannot be covered by copyright law. Examples include “car” or “computer”. Generic terms cannot usually be registered under copyright law, and no protection to the owner is given.
  • Generic terms and descriptions: These are terms that describe a product or service without any unique traits. Examples include “Laptop” or “Beer”. Generic terms cannot usually be registered under copyright law, and no protection to the owner is given.
  • Functional designs and features: These are elements that are important for the product to work and cannot be protected. Examples include the shape of a bottle or the form of a knife.
  • Names of people and places: These are personal names or real locations that cannot be protected. Examples include “John Smith” or “New York City”.
  • Government marks and insignia: These are images that are connected with government groups or institutions and cannot be trademarked. Examples include the US flag or the sign of the World Health Organization.

These parts cannot be named because they are either basic, useful, or linked with government bodies.

Why Trademark Protection Matters?

Trademark protection is important for several reasons:

  1. It stops property theft. By registering your trademark, you create exclusive rights to use that mark, stopping others from using a similar mark that could cause misunderstanding among customers.
  2. It guards your work character. A known brand provides your business with a unique character that stands out in the market. Your brand’s name, picture, and even unique colours become known symbols for your goods or services.
  3. It helps your business picture. Trademark protection suggests that your business is established, trustworthy, and committed to offering quality. This can draw more customers and partners.
  4. It improves your business worth. Trademarks are important assets that can be leveraged for business growth, licensing, and marketing. As your brand gets noticed and famous, the trademark’s value can increase, adding to your business’s total worth.


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