Registering Trade Marks to Protect Business Identity

Last updated on 8 August 2023

A key consideration for starting a business in Singapore is the ability to protect the intellectual property and identity of the business. One way to protect the business’s identity is to register its identifying symbols (such as a company logo) as trade marks.

According to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), a trade mark is a sign that a business can use to distinguish its goods or services from those of other traders. It can be in the form of letters, words, names, signatures, numerals, devices (figurative elements), brands, headings, labels, tickets, shapes and colours, or any combination of these elements.

Registering a trade mark in Singapore protects the business’s identity from unauthorised use. For example, a successful business can prevent competitors from fraudulently claiming a connection to the company by using its trademarked logo in the latter’s communications. Without a trade mark registration, there is less or no legal protection.

A company can also use a trade mark to help customers easily identify its products and services, which helps build brand loyalty and protect its market share. A trade mark can also be a source of revenue for a company through licensing agreements with third parties. For example, for a fee, many Disney characters are licenced to unrelated businesses, such as clothing manufacturers.

When registered in Singapore, a trade mark is protected for 10 years. Upon expiry, trade mark owners can renew the registration. As trade marks are based on the jurisdiction where they are registered, registering a trade mark in Singapore does not offer it protection elsewhere. As such, companies should also consider registering their trade marks in other jurisdictions where they are doing business.

Businesses who wish to register their trade marks should do so as soon as possible to prevent others from registering an identical or similar trade mark before you. One final point to note is that a business name registration with ACRA or domain name registration with Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) Pte Ltd does not equate to trade mark protection. All trade mark registration has to be filed with IPOS.