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Can I protect a slogan?

Published 03.10.11 at 16:54

When you hear 'trade marks' you may instantly think that this relates to a company's brand name, and you would be right. However, a number of things can be registered as a trade mark and they can all help make your goods or services stand out from the crowd.

Logos, colours, sounds and slogans can all be registered as trade marks as well as your traditional word marks. The Nike swoosh, the jingle for Intel Pentium Processors and the slogan 'Vorsprung Durch Technik' are obvious examples of trade marks that are all instantly recognisable as badges of origin and serve to distinguish the goods and services of their respective brands from those of their competitors.

As with your standard word marks, not every logo, colour, sound or slogan can be registered as a trade mark. For more information on what can be registered as a trade mark see our FAQ.

Slogans can be notoriously hard to register as trade marks as they often fail for being devoid of any 'distinctive character'. Take the slogan for Kit Kat as an example. The words "have a break..." when taken by themselves are hardly distinctive. These are words used in everyday language and were it not for their use over a long period of time would not create an association with the Kit Kat brand.

This is where the 'acquired distinctiveness' provision of the Trade Marks Act comes into play. Where a slogan has been used over a length of time so that it could be said to have acquired distinctiveness then a trade mark will not be refused registration by virtue of it being devoid of distinctive character. Guidance suggests that a mark is possible of acquiring distinctiveness if it has been in use for 10 years, however this is not the be all and end all as it must still be recognisable in the minds of the public.

Article by Joe Walsh

Photograph (some rights reserved) by Devin.M.Hunt

 

Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.

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