For anyone starting a business, regardless of whether it is a private entrepreneur (in Finland, toiminimi) or a company in any of its forms, comes a time when the following questions arise: should I register my trademark? What difference does it make? What do I gain with it?
The truth is that in matters of brands, it is normal for ingenuity to triumph. And ingenuity is no monopoly of anyone, in fact many large companies are willing to pay large sums for it. Therefore, if you have had a great idea to identify your products or services, it is best to run to register it before someone else comes to the same conclusion and decides to do it before you.
If that happens, you could be even sued by the owner of the brand and lose the right to market using your original trademark. There are also many cases of successful entrepreneurs who after having success with their products or services lost the right to use their own name and had to start over from scratch for the simple reason of not having registered the brand.
Of course, there is always the possibility of taken legal actions. But surely the process will be much more expensive than the couple of hundred euros that costs registering your trademark at the start of the activity.
- By registering your trademark you will gain the exclusive right to use this name to market your products in the territory in which the protection is granted. This means that nobody else can do it, and if someone else does, can be sued by you for using your brand without your permission.
- In Finland, brand registration entitles you to have the exclusive property of a trademark during ten years. And if you renew the registration before the stipulated period expires, you can practically guarantee the ownership of the brand in perpetuity.
- You can make good money with it. A good brand adds credibility to your business but a registered brand also remains as your personal intellectual property and it can be sold. Any potential investors or byers of your company will find it much more attractive if you own the trademark and therefore, all the rights to operate the brand are protected. You can also licence and franchise it to allow others to operate under your name.
- You can mortgage it. A known brand with a good reputation is a distinctive symbol and has a value itself regardless of your business turnover. For that reason, if you need to take a loan it can be used as a security asset as any other property.
- Having a trademark prevents your products from being confused with others in the market, especially when those are of inferior quality, and facilitates the fight against counterfeiting.
How to register your brand in Finland
In Finland, trademark registration is a competence of the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. You can register your business brand at its web page as long as you fulfil the basic some requirements: your trademark must be distinctive and must not be confusingly similar to earlier marks or company names or other rights.
A brand can also be refused if it is a personal name or surname, unless it is part of the applicant´s name or the term is also a common noun to an object thing. Another reasons for refusal are that the brand is contrary to public order or morality (you can’t use a name that for instance glorifies the use of drugs), uses public emblems, infringes without permission the distinctive rights of other protected work or is liable to be confused with another mark.
The first thing you have to do before filing your application is to check if there are any obstacles to registration. If you don´t do it and your application is rejected, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office will not refund the application fee charged for the processing.
A wise thing to do first is to check in the Trademark Database just by running a search if the brand you intend to register is someone’s property. You can access to the Finnish Trademark Database by clicking HERE
The Finnish Patent and Registration Office also offers the possibility to carry out preliminary examinations and inform you if there are any obstacles to the registration of your trademark. Usually those preliminary examinations take from 2 to 5 working days, they are carried out secretly and the results are disclosed only to the applicant. In the end the requester will know if a particular mark can be registered or not.
Apply online or with a paper form
Applications can be processed online or by filling a paper form. Here comes the biggest obstacle for foreigners, because both possibilities are only available in Finnish or Swedish. Then a wise thing to do is to get the help of some native Finnish or Swedish speaker who explains to you how to fill the forms during the process.
The Finnish Patent and Registration Office also recommends that before starting you decide what kind of mark you wish to register:
- A word mark: a trademark that comprises nothing but a word or a set of words or a combination of letters. It does not include any figurative elements, special font or typeface.
- Figurative marks: comprise nothing but drawings, graphics or a picture. Thus, it does not contain words or letters.
- Figurative marks with words: a figurative mark with a verbal element comprises both a figurative element and a word or words or letters. Such a mark could be, for instance, a word written in a particular font or typeface.
You must also think what kind of goods or services you want to register the trademark for and if the application will be submitted in the name of a private person, a private trader or a legal person, such as a company, an organisation or foundation. If you do not live and do not have a registered office in Finland, you have to appoint a representative residing in the European Economic Area who will act in your name in all matters concerning the mark management.
Once you have cleared those issues, you can start the process to submit your application. For an application to become pending, you have to pay in advance the application fee. Banking charges, if any, must be included in the amount paid, and a copy of the receipt has to be enclosed with the application in the case of applying with paper forms. For online applications you will need to have online banking credentials, which you can use also for the payment.
The basic price for registration is 225€ if the process is carried out online. In paper form it is more expensive, 275€. You can see the complete list of prices by clicking HERE
If you want to download a form to apply for a paper registration, you can do it HERE
If you deliver your application in person to the customer service, Sörnäisten Rantatie 13 C in Helsinki, you can pay the fee by debit or credit card.
Processing a trademark application takes 3-4 months in average terms. However, the proposed trademark is given protection from the application date onwards against trademark applications filed later, as the Finnish Patent and Registration Office explains on its website.