It is highly advised to register a trademark or service mark, particularly where the mark will be used commercially or internationally for brand identity purposes; however, there is no legal obligation to do so. The legal matter of registering a trademark is particularly extensive and it can be difficult for mark owners to fully understand their rights and obligations associated with owning an unregistered trademark. It is therefore advised to seek guidance from a professional consultancy firm or trademark attorney.
Using an unregistered trademark in a commercial capacity
Unregistered trademarks can be used for commercial purposes i.e. for the representation of a product or service, provided the trademark is unique, available to use and distinctive from competitors’ marks. Despite being unregistered, the mark must comply with the applicable industry standards, that is, it cannot be the same or similar to any other mark and cannot cause a level of confusion or offence to the public.
Unregistered trademarks are not as popular or widely used as a registered trademarks in the business arena as an unregistered trademark bares little protection or legal support in cases of infringement. This is because it is harder to prove who used the mark first and who showed due diligence and good will in using the trademark.
An unregistered trademark will adopt the following symbol – TM – at the end of the trademark. This symbol acts to notify the public, competitors, and the relevant trademark registries that although the mark is not registered it is in commercial use by the company using it for representation of their goods or services.
It is not advised to use a trademark on an international scale if it is not registered as there are a number of risks involved in doing so and can ultimately harm the reputation and operation of a company, goods or services.