Choosing a trademark for your business


A trademark is a symbol or slogan that is used to distinguish a product or service from others in the market place. Much thought must go into creating a new trademark in order to make it a unique brand name for your business. Trademarks must adequately describe your business or service to new potential customers.

A trademark is one of the most important assets of a company. It assists to create positive perceptions and emotions for your customers, which will lead to brand loyalty and a successful business. A trademark should also be something that is easy to remember and relative to your business. Using a slogan that is short and concise will also ensure that consumers remember it and easily associate your product or service to it.

If a trademark is offensive or has a derogatory or negative slogan it will not be registered. Also, if it is an expression or word that is freely used by everybody for example 60 minutes, it will not be registered. If your trademark contains any of South Africa’s national symbols it may also be refused registration.

Make sure the trademark you have chosen for your business is not similar to another trademark that has already been registered. This will cause customer confusion and will not make your trademark unique and stand out amongst others.

A trademark should not be something that is significant to you personally, or has some special meaning to you alone. When choosing a made-up word for your business it should still be relative, otherwise the trademark you have chosen for your business will confuse potential customers.

Choosing a trademark that uses descriptive words of your business may not be effective enough to distinguish your brand name from another business. Combining a word with a graphic element is a clever way to make your trademark distinguishable and unique.

Keep these 10 rules of thumb in mind when deciding upon your trademark:

  • Do not copy! In the long run this may be expensive if you are asked to withdraw your trademark.
  • Do not select a trade mark which is descriptive of the goods, its character or its function (e.g. “braai” or “mate” or “friend”, for cooking utensils).
  • Do not take a geographical name (e.g. a country, a city, a river, a mountain), a laudatory term (e.g. excellent, perfect, good, super or supa), or a surname (e.g. Smith, Brown). Remember that a misspelling (e.g. “fyne” for “fine”) or a phonetic variation will not necessarily make a weak trademark stronger.
  • Select a neutral word (i.e. neutral in respect to the goods or services). The best is a coined word which has no meaning (e.g. EXXON).
  • Simple and short is best.
  • It should be easy to pronounce, read and remember.
  • Keep in mind the pronunciation of the trade mark by other population groups (e.g. Afrikaans, or the languages of the growing black market).
  • Research the translated meaning, if any, of your proposed trademark. A negative meaning may be disastrous in an advertising campaign.
  • It should be easy to reproduce in printed or other forms of media.

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