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What are the requirements for registering a trademark?

Trademarks that cannot or may be hard to register

The following types of names might be difficult to register, or simply cannot be registered as trademarks:

  • a person's surname, if it is a common name
  • a word that is descriptive of products or services, such as 'organic', since everyone should be entitled to use that description
  • a trademark that is deceptively similar to a registered trademark or one already applied for
  • names that are protected and are therefore not available, such as 'Olympic'.

Trademarks that are easiest to register

A trademark that is an invented word will be easiest to register. Examples are: Google, Toyota, Starbucks, Caltex, Coca-Cola etc.

A trademark that is a common word, but is applied to identify unrelated goods and services will also be easier to register. Examples are: Apple (used in relation to computers); and Shell (used in relation to petrol and oil products).

Use or intention to use

To register a trademark, you must already be using it as an unregistered trademark, or intend to use it.

If you register a trademark and do not use it, this will be a ground for the cancellation of its registration.

Classes of goods or services

When you apply to register a trademark, you must nominate the class or classes of goods or services that will be identified with the trademark.

There are 45 classes under the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks, and you are able to nominate one or more classes in which you intend to use the trademark.