A trademark, commonly understood as a logo of a company or product, is, by law, an intangible good which, by establishing a relationship with an underlying product, is to be remembered by the consumer and used to distinguish our products or services from those of our competitors. Pursuant to Article 120(1) of the Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law, it may be any sign capable of being represented graphically provided that such a sign is capable of distinguishing the goods of one enterprise from those of another. As a classic example of an IP good, the trademark cannot exist outside the market and for the mark to serve its functions the conduct of business activity is required.
What are the features in question and what should be kept in mind when placing a trademarked product on the market?
Without relevant knowledge and cooperation with an experienced patent attorney, the entrepreneur will find it difficult to take first steps towards building a reliable, recognizable and, above all, well-protected brand. Registering a trademark with a competent office is not enough for your peace of mind. The rules applying in this area are slightly different and less intuitive.
Every trademark must fulfil a distinctive function in order to be recognised as such. It is a function protected by law helping distinguish goods of the same type from one another and indicating their origin. In practice, this means that the trademark identifies goods of a single type on the market (a distinguishing aspect) and helps consumer classify the goods as sharing the same commercial origin (an indicating aspect). Therefore, the buyer has the right to presume that each product marked with the same logo comes from the same right holder. And there is no denying that this is the basis for purchasing decisions being made by all consumers, as well as for developing a brand.
Other functions performed by the trademark take shape in the course of its use, as they are dependent on the right holder’s competence and potential, and not on the trademark itself. This is especially true of an advertising function of the mark.
Although entrepreneurs are not obliged to advertise their products in a public space, in reality market mechanisms make such advertising activities a condition for the entrepreneur’s success. The mark is a basic and extremely useful tool for communication between the entrepreneur and the consumer (not only as regards regular sales, but also when launching a new product). Today, no one is surprised by a multitude of advertisements in the mass media and on billboards we pass in the street. The direct purpose of the advertising function fulfilled by the mark is to maintain and acquire a new group of potential customers, as well as to encourage buyers to select the goods bearing a given mark. From this point of view, the most important task on the part of the entrepreneur is not only to put the product on the market, but also to undertake effective promotional activities, making the consumer to “remember” the product and reach for it.
Importantly, the consumer choosing a given product has expectations related to it, often heightened by the advertising function effectively used by the entrepreneur. It is obvious that praising the quality of a given product in a marketing campaign, more and more often with an endorsement from celebrities, on the one hand increases interest in the product, but on the other hand arouses the consumer’s expectations as to its quality… And here we arrive at the third, most important issue.
The guarantee function carried out by the trademark is to ensure that the customer’s reasonable expectations are met and to provide reliable information about the quality characteristics of the product. The consumer most often expects that the products bearing a given mark represent the same quality level.
As we already know, the advertising function is inextricably linked to the guarantee function by implicating it in a way. Both are important, but unfortunately, the guarantee function is often disregarded, which negatively translates into long-term branding of the trademark. It is worth bearing it in mind and attaching great importance to meeting the standards expected by customers in terms of the quality of or the role our brand is to play.
The trademark acts as a “vehicle” between the entrepreneur and the consumer reaching for a given product. It is worth remembering that it is the proper use of the functions performed by the trademark that encourages the consumer to get to know the product and, if they are satisfied, to durably use the brand represented by the trademark. In the long term, this translates into an increase in sales, and contributes to a gradual growth of the company.