Can I trade mark a geographical location?

Written by Katie Moruzzi | December 22, 2022

Trade Marks

You want to protect your brand name, but it consists exclusively or partially of a geographical location. Businesses often want to use marks which indicate the geographical origin of their products, where their business is based, or a level of quality or characteristic that makes the product more desirable.

There are however potential issues and using a geographical location could make registering a trade mark for your brand name a little more tricky and in some circumstances, you won’t be able to get a trade mark at all.

The purpose of a trade mark is to act as a business’s badge of origin and tell a consumer who produces the products or provides the services. Therefore, trade marks which are exclusively descriptive i.e., consist exclusively of signs or indications which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value or geographical origin of the goods/services cannot be registered.

The word ‘exclusively’ means that as long as your mark doesn’t include only the geographic location and contains additional features such as another word or graphic elements then you shouldn’t run into a refusal for descriptiveness.

You also need to consider Geographical Indications (GI). GIs are used on products that have qualities or characteristics attributable to a specific geographical origin. Examples in the UK include Scotch whisky and Stilton cheese.

When you apply for your trade mark, the UKIPO will also take GIs into consideration and a refuse a trade mark if it conflicts with a GI unless you can show a) that you will not produce your product or provide the service in that location or b) you are a legitimate GI producer. In either case, this will need to be reflected on the trade mark register.

If you need advice on the registrability of your trade mark or would like to know more about Geographical Indication products then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Written by Katie Moruzzi – Solicitor

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