Absolute and relative grounds for refusal to register a trade mark
Absolute and relative grounds for refusal to register a trade mark

The following IP guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Absolute and relative grounds for refusal to register a trade mark
  • Absolute and relative grounds
  • Absolute grounds for refusal
  • Relative grounds for refusal
  • Practical steps to minimise the risk of a challenge

Absolute and relative grounds

A trade mark’s essential function is to be a badge of origin. It distinguishes the goods and services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

Any mark may be registered as a trade mark unless a specified ground for refusal exists. The grounds for refusal are divided into two classes described as ‘absolute grounds for refusal’ (which relate to the intrinsic qualities of the mark and its ability to function as a trade mark) and ‘relative grounds for refusal’ (which relate to conflicts with earlier rights). It is possible for an application to be partially refused where the relevant ground for refusal applies only to some of the goods or services designated in the application.

When a trade mark application is filed, the relevant registry, eg the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), examines the application in order to determine whether or not the mark applied for falls within one of the 'absolute grounds' for refusal. For more information, see Practice Notes: Application to register a UK trade mark and EU trade mark registration—searches and application.

In addition, it is open to third parties to challenge the registration of a UK trade mark based on absolute grounds, and for third parties to challenge the registration of both UK trade marks and