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Trade Marks at a Glance

Home > Intellectual Property in France | Published 2010-12-15

A label is defined by Article L.711-1 of intellectual property law as a visual representation meant to distinguish goods or services of a person or entity.

"The brand name, trade or service mark is a sign capable of graphic representation serving to distinguish goods or services of any person or entity.”

Specifically, numerous things may constitute a label:

  • The denominations in all forms such as words, combinations of words, surnames and geographical names, pseudonyms, letters, numerals, abbreviations;
  • audible signs such as sounds, musical phrases;
  • figurative signs such as drawings, labels, stamps, borders, reliefs, holograms, logos, graphics, shapes, particularly those of the product or its packaging or those that identify a service arrangements, combinations or shades of colors. "

Every business must identify and distinguish itself from its competitors by using distinctive signs such as a name, label ... and brand. The brand will customize its products to differentiate them from those of their competitors. The company has the ability to register a trademark.

The choice of brand is fairly complex because it must be strategically decided and also attractive to the consumer. A brand not only reflects the corporate image but also requires that such an appointment is legally possible, notably in order to avoid any exploitation by a competitor.

A brand can take many forms. They may include names, words, letters, numbers, surnames ... It can be imaginative or figurative ... It may be all these things at once; in which case it would certainly qualify as a complex brand. To its core, a brand must possess some degree of graphic representation.

Essentially, there are certain conditions that a brand must meet.

It must be specific and distinct to the goods or services it designates. It must not be indicative of the product yet also should not be generic, compulsory, archetypal, or a feature of the product.

It should not be misleading about the nature, quality or provenance of the product. It must not be contrary to law, morality or public order.

Also, ensure that the label does not affect a prior rights belonging to another person. There may be other distinctive labels, specifically when the brand has already been filed by a third party, or prior rights establishing personal exclusivity or copyright over a trademark or label.

Any company can apply for trademark registration; either themselves or through an agent. In France, the record is filed with the INPI, National Institute of Industrial Property, or at the Registry of the Commercial Court in the appropriate jurisdiction of the applicant's residence or headquarters.On a local level, the filing is done before the OHIM Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market or with the registration bodies of member states. The record must include the identity of the applicant, the representation of the brand, products or services it designates, and details of classification.

Approval in the registration process requires that reviewers check the formal validity of the record, ensuring no documents are missing, and check that all prescribed conditions for acceptance are met. They do not dwell on the presence or absence of a prior right. The application is subject to publication so that in the event of the emergence of a third party that is aggrieved by the filing of the symbol, said individual may formalize their complaints to OHIM or INPI. If the brand has been previously filed, the current owner must file a complaint. If the grievance is justified, the registration will be rejected. If it is unfounded, the mark will be registered.

If the examiner approves the registration application, the trademark owner will respond retroactively to the date of filing. The trademark rights are effective for ten years after which they are renewable. In the event of failure to renew the claim, the individual has waived their trademark rights and the matter will be settled by revocation of exclusive claims of their trademark, design, or brand.

It is always possible for third parties to bring forward a motion for annulment even after registration; the reasons for which might include a lack of distinctiveness, illegality, lack of plot or infringement of a prior claim. Complaints advocating the revocation of a party’s trademark rights are carried out in the absence of the genuine use of the mark by the proprietor for the goods or services for an uninterrupted period of five years, unless they can claim a good cause.

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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