Goodbye Shakespeare ... Now name matters alot

By: Karimullah Adeni

What's in a name: That which we call rose. By any other name would smell as sweet-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; 11.2

But, as (Chief Justice retired) Dr. Nasim Hasan Shah once said, "this is not true of Trade Marks and in the world of commerce". The name is every thing. After all, a name is one's commercial identity. A brand name is worth a thousands unbranded products. While usually every care is taken when finalizing a product - from the very inception of the mere concept up till the packaging - many a people, however, at times ignore the importance of having a good trade mark. This they do because they, perhaps, do not realize what is a good trade mark, or how important it is. A German merchant once admitted that his country businessmen protected their trade marks more than their wives. But then what is a good trade mark?

Academician describe a good trade mark as generally having nice qualities. It should be easy to speak, easy to remember, easy to spell, simple in design, attractive in sound and appearance, should suggest the desirable qualities of the merchandise, should be different from other trade marks of the same class, and it should be possible to affix it to the goods with which it is used.

But despite all this a lot of people come up with the trade marks that are not defensible in a court of law.

Take the example of "Punjab Ata No. 1" and "National Spices" for years, they were advertised on TV and newspapers. But then it was never issued. A certificate of exclusivity by the Pakistan Trade Mark Registry. The company continues to run into the risk of any other product coming into the market with the same name for the similar goods. 

Or for example, the work Supreme or Tasty. It is used by many companies for their various products. But again it is not a trade mark that the Registry will allow to monopolize it.

This is because, like it is important to know what constitutes a trade mark, it is equally important to know what cannot be a trade mark. And mind you, a product can have a name that is not a trade mark. But then it cannot be defended in an open market competition, and a competitor can always used that name for product of its own. 

So what should be avoided to achieve a good trade mark? 

A trade mark should never be purely descriptive or a laudatory word. To say that something is good, or excellent, or perfect, or super, is to merely describe your product. Such words do not make a trade mark. The geographical name or of places of industrial or commercial importance potentially suitable for manufacture of the goods cannot be used as a trade mark. Because anybody can be originating his or her product from that place. So what is distinctive in it.

Then one cannot have common surnames as a trade mark. Which means that a surname has to be unusual and distinctive to be used for this purpose. Similarly, personal names are also out of question.

Then there are number and letter that cannot be used. The criterion for such a decision is distinctiveness. A letter or a number series has to pass this test of individuality to be declared a trade mark.

But many a people in our country have no idea about these things. And you would be surprised to learn what kind of people mark these seemingly obvious mistakes. Once doesn't have to name them. After all, what's in a name.