How a trademark can protect your business
Amid booming economic activity in the Kingdom over the past few years, competition has intensified among traders and businesses to come up with ever more creative and attractive products and services for consumers, from daily necessities to the hospitality sector, and even at the level of large investment companies.
Perhaps the common factor among all these companies, regardless of their size, is the imperative to create a memorable and distinctive trademark or trade name. In this regard, they must all adhere to regulations specified by the Ministry of Commerce.
In Saudi law, trademarks are any names, words, signatures, letters, symbols, numbers, addresses, seals, drawings, pictures, patterns, packaging, graphic elements, shapes, colors, a specific combination of colors, or any sign or group of signs that are used or intended to be used to distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of other companies, or to indicate the performance of a service.
Trademarks may also be collective, used to distinguish goods or services supplied by establishments belonging to members of a specific entity that has a legal identity. They may also be temporary, used to identify an event, for example an exhibition, and they remain valid for up to six months from the start of the event.
Trademarks may be registered in Saudi Arabia by any GCC national, such as the owner of a factory or product, a dealer or craftsman, or someone offering services; by expatriates authorized to offer goods or services; and by a foreign national of a member state in a multinational international agreement to which the Kingdom is also party. Trademarks may also be registered by government authorities in the public interest.
Trademarks may not contain expressions, drawings or signs that violate public morals, or use public emblems, flags or military and honorary emblems, such as symbols of the Red Crescent or the Red Cross. They must not use marks that are identical or similar to symbols of a strictly religious character, and trademarks must not cause confusion regarding the source or origin of the goods or services. And they must not make unverified claims about honorary or academic degrees.
No trademark may be identical or similar to a previously registered one, or contain copies, imitations, or translations of a famous trademark or part of one. Trademarks should not include terms such as “franchise,” “registered” or “copyright.”
The owner of a registered trademark may authorize others to use it for the products or services registered during the license period, and lodged in the trademark register at the Ministry of Commerce.
Next week we will discuss the rights and responsibilities of trademark owners, and the penalties for breaching trademark regulations.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal counsel and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif