10 important trademark terms you must know

important trademark terms IPHub Asia Singapore

The IP industry jargon may seem daunting. However, you still need to understand a few frequently used words when considering obtaining protection for your mark. This article explains a few important trademark terms in simple language.

1. Trademark

A sign, symbol, word, smell, colour, sound or name that distinguishes its proprietor’s goods or services from that of others. Typically, they are logos, words or slogans. Read more about trademark basics.

2. Class

This refers to the identification of goods and services in a trademark application. The Nice Classification system, an international classification system that most registries follow, divides goods and services into 45 classes. Classes 1-34 include goods while classes 35-45 define services.

3. Priority claim

The applicant of a trademark for the first time is granted the right to claim priority when filing applications for the same trademark in other countries within a 6-month period, starting from the date of the first filing. If priority is claimed, then the second application will be considered as having been filed on the same date as the first filing. As such, the applicant will enjoy prior rights against applications filed by third parties since the date of filing in the first country.


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for administering the Madrid System and the international registration of trademarks. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

5. Infringement

Trademark infringement occurs when a trademark that is identical or confusingly similar to another company’s mark which is enjoying prior rights, is used without its owner’s permission. 

6. Trademark journal

During the registration process of a trademark, if the application has not been refused by the duty officer, then the mark is published in a trademark journal. This provides the public with an opportunity to file a trademark opposition within a limited period of time before protection is granted.

7. License

This is an agreement between a trademark owner and a third party, allowing the third party to make limited, specified use of a trademark. Licenses are usually subject to royalty payments.

8. Symbols ® and ™

The symbols ® and ™ are commonly associated with trademarks. ® means that a trademark is registered with the registry. The applicant cannot use this symbol before the registration process is completed. ™ can be used if the company has not yet filed an application for their mark, but is using it as a trademark. 

9. Distinctiveness

A trademark must be distinctive to the consumers to be accepted by the registry, as the purpose of a trademark is to identify its origin. Arbitrary trademarks (such as Blackberry) or fanciful trademarks (like Nike) are considered the most distinctive trademarks. 

10. Descriptiveness

A descriptive trademark is one that describes some characteristics of the products or services of interest such as the quality, quantity, intended purpose, value or origin. Descriptive trademarks can generally not be protected as a trademark unless their extensive usage causes them to have acquired distinctiveness. 

At IPHub Asia, we help businesses protect their intellectual property rights. Contact us to help you understand more trademark terms and to assist with your business needs in IP. You can also visit our website to learn about the IP services we offer.

As Founder and Managing Director of IPHub Asia, Dorothee is passionate about trademarks and the importance they hold in any business – small or large, in the Asian ecosystem. She has been living in Asia since 2003 and is up-to-date with the legislative changes of each country with regard to trademarks and other IP rights. She also enjoys visiting the South-East Asian region and is eager to discover new ways of doing business, embrace other cultures and meet new and disruptive entrepreneurs.

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