Trademarks and Designs

I have an idea, what should I do next?

In order to get the most out of your idea, you should acquire exclusive rights to it. This will enable you to stop anyone commercialising your idea. The first thing you should do when you have a good idea is to find out if it already exists. You can do so by, among other things, conducting a search on the Internet and by searching the trademarks and designs database.

What are trademarks and designs?

A trademark is a mark that distinguishes your products or services from those of your competitors. It may consist of a word, a logo, a notation, a type of packaging, a colour combination or a sound. A design refers to (part of) the appearance of a consumer item. It could take the form of a pattern but also the form of a blender or a toilet bowl.

Why do I need to register a trademark or design?

Trademarks and designs enable people to recognise your products and services. That is why it is so important to protect them properly. According to the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property the exclusive right to a trademark is acquired through registration. A trademark cannot be acquired and, in principle, no action can be taken against infringers, without registration. The 'first come, first served' maxim applies. Registration is also compulsory in the case of a design and in most countries the design also needs to be ‘new’ at the time of registration and have an individual character. You will be the only one allowed to use the trademark or design after you have registered it. Others will only be allowed to do so with your permission. A registration can therefore make you a lot of money.

We are in the preliminary stage. When do we need to start thinking about registration?

It is never too early to start thinking about your Intellectual Property. The sooner you start thinking about protection - and therefore also about the competition - the sooner it will become clear which direction will be most interesting for you in the further development of your idea. It is therefore good for your development strategy.

Who can register a trademark?

Any private individual or legal entity can register a trademark. The registration can also be made in the name of several people or legal entities. This will make the registrants joint owners.

Is it possible to register a trademark in the Benelux, while the holder (registrant) does not have an address or company in the Benelux?

Yes, the trademark will then need to be registered by an intermediary (e.g. a patent attorney) with an address for correspondence in the Benelux region. Needless to say, the client (registrant) will remain the legal owner of the trademark. If the foreign trademark holder has an address for correspondence in the Benelux, he or she can register his/her trademark with the Benelux Trademarks Office directly.

When is a trademark and/or design protected?

From the moment of registration, so once the entire procedure has been completed.

What is meant by expedited registration?

Because a trademark is only protected by registration once the entire procedure has been completed, it is possible to apply for expedited registration. In this case, the trademark is registered at the time of application and the holder of the rights can claim his/her rights from third parties. The entire administrative procedure will then only take place after the registration has been completed. There is always a possibility that the trademark might be refused by the Trademarks Office for some reason. The registration will then be cancelled.

How long does a trademark registration remain valid?

In the Benelux for a period of 10 years, with the possibility to extend for 10 years at a time.

How long does a design registration remain valid?

In the Benelux for a period of 5 years, with the possibility to extend for 5 years at a time up to a maximum of 25 years.

Is there such a thing as a worldwide registration?

No, there is no such thing as a worldwide registration. That is why the registration of trademarks and designs all over the world always involves a strategic choice of countries/regions. Trademarks and/or design rights have to be applied for in every country in which you wish to use your trademark. It is also possible to use a European trademark and/or design registration as well as an international trademark and/or design registration. This makes it possible to protect your trademark or design in various countries with one single application.

In which countries should I register my trademark or design?

The choice of countries is a strategic one which is closely related to your commercial activities. In the case of Europe, for example, it is generally enough to protect the European Union. Competitors will then not be inclined to launch such a trademark or design in other European countries.

Is a European registration valid in all European countries?

A European registration is valid in the 28 EU member states. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.