How to Register a Trademark in Sri Lanka
As a business, if you havent Trademarked your company's Intellectual Properties, you probably should before someone beats you to it. A trademark is a sign that’s used to distinguish your business from everyone else. Wondering how to get started? It is a problem that every business owner faces at some point so here we have broken down the process to the simplest way possible so anyone can follow through.
Say you have a beautiful logo paired with a catchy tagline. What’s stopping you from making sure that it wont be copied or replicated? If you haven’t registered your trademark yet, someone else will probably beat you to it. The amazing thing is that theoretically, anyone could Register a Trademark in Sri Lanka, ranging from corporations, sole proprietors, partnerships, associations to unincorporated individuals can sign up for a trademark.
Lets take a step back and define what exactly is a Trademark. Well Trademark is a sign or object that you use to separate your business from everyone else. In essence, Trademark is a symbol that is capable of separating the products and services of one organization from those of other organizations. Trademarks are protected by the Intellectual Property Rights. Usually, these Trademarks consists of company logo, signature and tagline. For an example, Nike has trademarked their iconic Swoosh logo and their synonymous tagline “Just Do It”, in which they use to separate themselves from other market players such as Adidas, Puma, Reebok, etc. who tend to have their own distinct trademarks as well.
What constitute as a Trademark? Well Sri Lankan National Intellectual Property Office answers this question as "A mark may consists of a word(s), a symbol(s), a device(s), letters, numerals, a name, surname or geographical name, a combination or arrangement of colors and shapes of goods or containers etc. A mark should be a visible and a distinctive sign and it should always be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of different enterprises”.
Once you register a trademark, only you will be able to legally use that Trademark and from there onwards, the ™ or ® symbol will appear next to your design, logo or words. However, your Trademark could be used by external parties but only with your permission. Furthermore, the use of similar looking trademarks (Logos, Slogans, Product names) are prohibited as well. Sometimes companies tend to have more than One Trademark under its name.
Trademarking in Sri Lanka could summarized in to two steps :
Submitting Application Forms: First you are advised to conduct an Intellectual Property Search to ensure that no other company has a similar property as you. Then we move in to the providing documents needed to the National Intellectual Property Office by Submitting the name, address and a complete list of products & services provided in the business according to NICE Classification. However, if you are a foreign entity or someone else is filling the documents on behalf of you, Letter of Appointment of Attorney will also have to be filed. You will be asked to submit six (6) hard copies of your trademark or a Scanned Copy and if your trademark isn’t in English, you will have to provide a translation of your trademark. Finally, If you have already applied for a trademark in another country, you should submit a certified copy or the application of the said trademark.
The Registration process : Following the first step, you will have to submit the Intellectual Property application to the National Intellectual Property Office with the trademark details (logo design/trade name) alongside your first payment. Then you will have to acquire your Filing Number from the Intellectual Property Office and start preparation for the examination stage. Furthermore, if translations are required, the documents will have to be sent to the translation department and if not, the second payment will have to be made. Then if all documentations are in order, you will have to publicly announce your trademark registration on a Governmental Gazette. With that there will be period of 3 months for any objections from the day that the announcement has been made public. If there are no objections raised during the 3 months, the trademark will be yours & you will be issued a trademark certificate.
An important thing to remember is that, as said above, once your trademark is approved by the National Intellectual Property Office, it will be publicly announced in a Government Gazette. If there are no objections raised within the stipulated deadline of 3 months, your application will be processed as usual and you will be issued a trademark certificate. However, if any entity or party has any objection to your trademark, a claim will be noted against your new trademark. Then if your trademark is not approved due to the opposition or any other reason, you will be notified by the Registrar from the National Intellectual Property Office. With the dismissal, you can file a written appeal against the rejection within a month and based on your appeal the registrar will take necessary considerations & amendments to your trademark or reject your application altogether. However, if needed, you will be granted a date for your hearing at a Court of Law to make your case.
To be fully efficient and effective your trademark should be memorable and resonate strongly with your target audience in addition to being totally unique and catchy from what’s out there already. Many consider trademarking to be synonymous with Branding. A good trademark will be etched into your consumers subconscious. Your trademark is a useful tool which can be used to show a unique trait and weave an emotional story to capture consumer’s attention and make your company and its products & services to standout from the rest. An important aspect to consider during this age of technology, is that when trademarking a logo is whether it fits the social media aesthetic, for an example, often logos with long wordings or extra elements have to be cropped out or redesigned in a more fitting manner to be portrayed within the company’s social media platforms.
Trademarking gives your company the ownership in specific locations whether it’s provincial, district, regional, city, or even nationwide in which case you retain the exclusive right to mark and package your products while prohibiting anyone else from using your logo, name, slogan, etc. in that particular location. However, your trademark is only protected in the country that the trademark is registered in. Another important thing to note about Trademarks is that, unlike Patents, Trademarks can be renewed every 10 years, meaning that the owner(s) of the trademark retains the rights indefinitely to said Trademark.
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