Trademarks: What They Are And Why They Matter

Trademarks: What They Are And Why They Matter


What is a trademark?

A trademark is a symbol, word, phrase, logo, number, or a combination of these elements that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services of one party from that of others. Trademarks can be registered with the Trade Marks Office to provide their owners with an exclusive legal right in connection with their goods or services. Once the trademark is registered in the name of a proprietor it associates the said trademark with the proprietor and prevents others from misusing identical/similar marks in a way that could confuse the members of the public.

Laws governing trademarks in India

The Trade Marks Act of 1999 and the Trade Marks Rules of 2017 govern the trademark laws in India.

Section 2(1)(zb) defines “trademark” as:

A trademark means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours.”

This definition essentially encapsulates the fundamental components of a trademark: its graphical depiction, its role in identifying and distinguishing between goods or services of one proprietor from another, encompassing diverse formats such as shapes, packaging, color combinations etc.

Types of trademarks in India

  1. Word Marks: These trademarks cover distinctive words, letters, slogans, taglines or numerals which do not contain any artistic elements used to represent goods or services of a person. Word marks provide wider protection as compared to device marks.
  1. Device Marks: These trademarks cover artistic elements and includes logos, symbols, or any other graphical element used to represent goods or services of a person. Device marks filed in black and white (without limitation of colour) provide wider protection than the device marks filed in particular colour/ colour combination.
  1. Sound Marks: These trademarks cover sound sequences that identify and distinguish particular goods or service of a proprietor.
  1. Shape Marks: These trademarks cover the unique shapes of goods or their packaging however the shape of goods which results from nature of goods themselves, or which is necessary to obtain a technical result, or which gives substantial value to the goods are not registrable.
  1. Color Marks: These trademarks cover specific colors or color combinations that are identifiable with a particular proprietor for distinguishing its goods or services.
  1. Smell/ Olfactory Marks: These trademarks cover specific smells associated with products or services. Registration of a smell mark is relatively rare since it’s a challenge to graphically represent the same.
  1. Collective Marks: These trademarks are owned by an organization or an association and used by its members to indicate a particular characteristic that is common to the goods or services provided by its members.
  1. Certification Marks: These trademarks cover distinctive symbols, logos, or seals used by organizations to identify and certify that a particular product, service, or process meets specific standards or qualifications controlled by the mark’s owner.
  1. Service Marks: These trademarks are not separate class of trademarks but specifically cover services of a proprietor than physical goods.
  1. Series Marks: These trademarks encompass several trademarks in relation to the same or similar goods or services under one application of the same proprietor, typically used to identify related goods or services that have common characteristics.



Trademark rights are territorial in nature i.e to assert exclusive statutory rights in one jurisdiction, the proprietor needs to apply for registration in that particular registration. The trademark laws of every country vary from one another and a trademark registration in India will not automatically grant trademark rights anywhere in the world and vice versa.


Before commencing to register a trademark, its essential to identify the type of the trademark, the goods/ service for which it is covered and the rights that it shall provide. In any case, the primary purpose of a trademark irrespective of the jurisdiction is the same: identifying, distinguishing and safeguarding the goods/ services of one entity from another. A trademark is a valuable asset for its owner, facilitating both monetization of the trademark and aids in leveraging the goodwill and reputation built or associated with a trademark with its proprietor. A registered trademark further acts as a protective barrier, shielding the rights of the registered owner from its competitors and serves as a legal recourse, empowering the owner to take legal action against infringement/ illegal use by a third party.

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