The Government of India supportive policies and various reliefs for MSMEs makes trademarks because they are the most vital IP asset for MSMEs as they now stand an opportunity to form their mark even more extensively and literally. MSMEs do understand trademarks, but their understanding on brand and therefore the importance of protecting it with trademarks and converting it into an easily transferable asset is lacking.
How Brands and Trademarks can be useful for MSMEs?
- The intricate part of the brand comprises several elements namely image, character, identity, personality, essence, culture and reputation. By adopting a brand products can be easily identified and consequently, provide their business with an unchallenged competitive advantage in the market.
- Trademark is basically registering a Brand name, to stop third parties or any other person from illegally using the mark. Trademark is a defense reaction to guard a MSMEs brand from loss of reputation, retaining an honest trustworthy relationship together with your existing and potential customer.
- A trademark brand has the potential to increase in value as an intangible asset to use as collateral to obtain financing from legitimate financial institutions.
- The MSMEs must remember that trademark protects their customers/ clients from using duplicate products/ services, and in such a paradigm, it becomes all more important that customer oriented MSMEs, either in B2B situations, empower their customers to identify their duplicates.
- Trademarks are tradable assets, that is, like other assets of MSMEs, the trademark can be sold, licensed, or purchased as per needs to/from another MSME or MNCs. It is also quite possible for MSME to sell their entire business (Customers/Tangibles) while retaining control of their brand names/logos and the license of those trademarks to other manufacturers.
A Pragmatic approach to trademarks for MSMEs
The MSMEs in India, rely on common law tort of passing off to protect their brand name (in a court), product’s name, logos and any other visible sign that allows their customers/clients to identify them in a market place. Though this approach is very cost saving, yet, what they don’t understand is that every cost saving measure of today, especially in IPrs, may snowball into a potential infringement in future. In absence of a registered Trademark, the aggrieved party cannot launch an infringement suit but can only launch a lawsuit under a common law tort of passing off, and proving the prior usage/goodwill/ brand of the names to a court of law, and then obtaining an injunction order against the infringer.
Such a tedious enforcement process could be cut short simply by producing a trademark registration certificate to the infringer, who has not adopted the trademark bonafidely. Further a trademark registration provides a trademark owner to institute infringement proceedings. Besides that, trademark registration in India is inexpensive for MSMEs, as the government has halved the price of their trademark application fee for registered MSMEs.
How to register Trademarks?
- Register Brand names/ Trademarks/ Logos/ Trade dress etc. once you are ready to market the product, and before its launch, as the name is less likely to change after this stage.
- All trademarks registrations are territorial, that is, trademark registered in India is enforceable in India alone. If an MSME is inclined to sell their products abroad, they also need to register their trademark in each of the potential countries. These international filing can be affected either directly or via Madrid protocol that significantly reduces duration and costs of filing and obtaining trademark registrations in several countries.