In spite of all that you may have heard to the contrary, it is not possible to patent a name. That is true no matter where you are in the world. A patent may only be granted for an invention that shows novelty and that is of use to commerce, industry or agriculture. So, no matter how hard you might try or where, you cannot patent a name. How, then, do you reserve a particular name for your business or your product. The answer is to reserve a trademark for it.
Trademarks fall under the description of Intellectual Property, and intellectual property can be divided into four categories. These are Trademarks, Patents, Designs and Copyright. Intellectual property laws are designed to protect these different categories, although in some cases there is a degree of overlap. A trademark is a distinctive logo, brand name or slogan that is used to distinguish the services or products of different businesses.
Trademarks are governed by the Trademark Act, and are distinctive signs that are used to distinguish the products or services of different businesses. Trademarks and Patents are both registered in the same office, namely the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office, which is situated in Pretoria. A trademark may be a logo, a distinctive brand name or a slogan.
A trademark identifies the goods or services of one individual or company from those of another. Once a trademark has been registered nobody can use it or even another that is similar to it to identify their goods. If they do so, then the owner of the trademark may take legal action against them.
So, although it cannot be patented, a name can be registered as a trademark. It can be either a logo, a slogan or a brand name – in the case of Coca Cola it can even be the shape of the bottle. A trademark can be very valuably intellectual property and can be the most valuable asset of a business. It should be adequately protected.
The owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken may be able to patent the secret ingredients with which they coat their chicken pieces, but they can’t patent the name. The brand name, which can be either a word or a combination of words (Kentucky Fried Chicken), can be registered as a trademark. The slogan It’s finger lickin’ good and the logo (The Colonel Sanders logo for the same company) may both be registered as trademarks.
Intellectual Property Attorneys specialize in patents and trademarks and can advise you on the name you have chosen as a trademark. They will carry out searches on your behalf to ensure there is no conflict with earlier trademarks. Registration of your trademark offers you several advantages, and establishes your rights to the mark, even before you use it.
Registration of your mark will also simplify any infringement proceedings that may occur and also notifies others of your claim to that mark.
Trademark attorneys can also advise you on searching, licensing, technology transfer, setting up joint ventures, copyright protection and litigation in relation to intellectual property.