Trademark Registration vs Company Names Registration in Hong Kong
When registering a company name or trademark registration, it is important to understand that the two are not the same and separate regulations govern them respectively. In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, company names are registered at the Companies Registry whereas business names are registered at the Business Registration Office (Inland Revenue Department). On the other hand, trademarks are registered at the Trade Marks Registry.
Even if a company or business has registered their name at the registry, they are still required to apply separately for the registration of its trademarks with the Trade Marks Registry in order to obtain legal protection under the Trade Marks Ordinance.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a type of intellectual property which “consists of a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services from a particular business or company”. It creates a recognizable brand image and tends to have specific value based on how popular or prominent it is amongst consumers.
It is important to note that a business registration certificate or a certificate of incorporation is not sufficient proof that the business or company has intellectual property rights to use a trademark for promoting or selling goods and services.
A trademark registration at the Trade Marks Registry is a guarantee of trademark rights in Hong Kong and provides legal protection against trademark infringement. The owner of a registered trademark has the exclusive right to use their trademark in Hong Kong when selling goods and/or services for which the trademark is registered. They are also able to grant licenses to vendors who may sell the goods and/or services on their behalf.
A trademark infringement is made when an identical or confusingly similar trademark such as a logo or a sign is used for goods and/or services in Hong Kong without permission from the trademark owners or without a proper license. If someone is using a well-known trademark without permission, they may be committing trademark infringement even if it used for different types of goods or services.
Recent reports have surfaced that trademark infringements are being carried out under the guise of companies/businesses registering their names with the Registry and using said name as a cover for promoting or dealing in registered and well-known trademarks that they have not registered for and have no authorization to sell.
Those found guilty of trademark infringements will be subject to hefty legal penalties and have to compensate the rightful owners of a registered trademark. To avoid this, company and business owners are advised to check online for free if a trademark is registered and to identify which owners/individuals/companies are licensed to use the trademarks at esearch.ipd.gov.hk.
Businesses are also advised to register their trademarks in the mainland China in order to utilize legal actions against trademark infringement within mainland China.