Introduction to trade marks
Introduction to trade marks

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

  • Introduction to trade marks
  • What is a trade mark?
  • Registering a trade mark
  • Maintaining trade mark registrations
  • Dealing with trade marks in agreements
  • Asserting trade marks
  • Unregistered trade mark rights and the law of passing off
  • Trade mark litigation

This Practice Note provides an introduction to:

  1. what is a trade mark?

  2. registering a trade mark

  3. dealing with trade marks in agreements

  4. asserting trade marks

  5. unregistered trade marks and the law of passing off

  6. trade mark litigation

For more information about the filing and prosecution of trade marks, portfolio management and transactions involving trade marks, see: Trade mark transactions and management—overview.

For more information about disputes involving registered and unregistered trade marks, see: Trade mark and passing off disputes—overview.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a sign used to distinguish the goods and services of one undertaking from those of another. In other words, a trade mark enables consumers to identify goods or services as originating from a particular company or relating to a certain product or service. Typically trade marks take the form of words or logos though it is possible to protect more unusual forms of trade marks such as colours, slogans, shapes of products or packaging, sounds and even smells. Trade marks may be registered or unregistered. Registering trade marks usually offers the best protection (see below) but unregistered trade marks can be enforced in certain circumstances under the law of passing off.

It is important to distinguish trade marks from other types of registration such as company names or domain names. Registering a company name at