A trademark has to be distinctive and not similar to already existing marks to be eligible for registration. It must be capable of distinguishing one's goods/services from another. The Indian Trademark Registry allows the registration of those trademarks that comply with the Trade Marks Act and the corresponding Rules. Based on how unique and distinct a mark is, a trademark is provided registration. Hence, one of the essential steps prior to filing for registration of a trademark is to conduct a trademark search in order to know the probability of distinctiveness of a mark and if there exists any prior registration of the mark one wants to register. See below the steps involved in conducting a trademark search in the Indian Trademark Registry:
A trademark search can be done using the Public Search option available on the IP India official website. There are different options available on the official website like Patents, Designs, Trademarks, GI, etc. One should navigate to trademarks, a drop-down box opens and related links should be chosen, and then ‘Public Search’ should be chosen as shown in the image below.
The Public Search page is an external link and a new page opens as shown in the image below.
There are three different types of ‘Search Type’: Wordmark, Phonetic, and Vienna Codification. ‘Wordmark’ search uses the words entered to show similar trademark results. ‘Phonetic’ search uses the sounds of the mark entered to show similar sounding results. Lastly, Vienna Codification is a numerical system wherein numbers are allotted to logos based on their characteristic features like lines, shapes, etc. The numerical value should be entered in order to find similar marks with similar characteristic features.
A ‘wordmark’ search is to be conducted. The search can be conducted using one of three different options: ‘Start with’, ‘contains’, or ‘match with’, as shown in the image below.
A trademark can be classified according to the goods or services that they deal with. There are 45 classes, in total. There are different sets of classes for goods and services:
Classification for goods (Classes 1-34): For example, Class 1 deals with different types of chemicals, Class 25 deals with clothing, Class 33 deals with alcoholic beverages, etc.
Classification for services (Classes 35-36): For example, Class 37 deals with the construction of buildings, Class 42 deals with software services, etc.
A full list of information on the Classes and the goods/services dealt by them can be found here.
Consider the example of Subway. Subway is a global fast food chain providing service in making sandwiches. Class 43 deals with services for providing food and drinks. A trademark search for the mark ‘Subway’ will be conducted in Class 43 as shown in the image below. For the purpose of this search, the search type will be ‘wordmark’ and the ‘start with’ option is chosen.
Once all the necessary details are filled in, press on ‘Search’. A dialog box opens up with all the results, as shown in the image below.
The total number of matching marks for the mark ‘Subway’ is 5. Details of every mark like the proprietor, application number, the status of the mark, etc. are shown.
The ‘Show details’ option will provide more information about a specific mark, like the application date, the entire class description, etc.
Based on these matches, the distinctiveness of a mark can be assessed. If there are similar marks dealing with similar goods/services, registration of such a mark would be difficult. Thus, conducting a trademark search is necessary before applying for necessary protection.