Be proactive in protecting your brands

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One of the problems businesses in Papua New Guinea face today is the increasing number of counterfeit products. It’s a serious concern for businesses because the importation and sale of counterfeit products results in loss of profits for an affected business. Interestingly, many businesses are not serious about protecting their brands until they find themselves in a situation where an unauthorized third party uses a similar brand on the packaging of identical or similar products. By being pro-active in protecting your intellectual properties this can save you a lot of time and money and prevent others from infringing your rights.

One strategy businesses can take to protect their brands is to first identify their brands and then register them as trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office of Papua New Guinea. By registering your brands as trademarks, you basically secure legal protection over the brands and can sue third parties for infringements of your protected brands.

You can protect your brand by completing and filing an application for registration of a trademark with the Intellectual Property Office of PNG.  Completing an application is not that difficult and the standard information required is as follows:

  • Name and address of applicant
  • Country of incorporation (if a company)
  • Description of goods in which the trademark is used or will be used
  • The class of goods
  • The trademark specimen/sample

The only difficult information is to get the class of goods.  This information can be provided by the IPO however if you do engage the services of a law firm specializing in Intellectual Property, they can advise you the correct class or better complete and file the application on your behalf.

The application is examined and if there are no issues it will then be advertised in the IPO journal for opposition purposes and subject to their being no opposition the application will proceed to registration. Should there be any issues during examination or opposition by third parties then you will definitely need the services of a lawyer to assist you overcome the objections or fight the opposition.

While registering a trademark is not compulsory it is strongly recommended because like any asset of your business a brand registered as a trademark is intellectual property and has value to it. Registering a trademark gives you various rights including suing third parties for infringement.

If you do not register your brand as a trademark, it can become a very costly in suing a third party for infringement and before that establishing your rights over that trademark or brand. By registering it, you have taken the first step in securing your rights and have established legal ownership of that trademark.

Importation of counterfeit products is at an all time high in Papua New Guinea. Manufacturers of these counterfeit products manufacture products different from the original but place on the packaging a brand that is identical or substantially similar to the original product. Normally, the bottom line for such behavior is to mislead the consumer into buying their product with the mistaken knowledge that what the consumer is buying is the original product when it is not.

As a business owner, you can also ensure that the Customs department can help watch over products with packaging that closely resemble the original.  To do this, you will need to apply to the Customs Department and provide samples of your trademarks and evidence that you own them.

You should also take note that while these steps can be taken there is no guarantee that informing the third party on possible infringement will make them stop importing, selling or distributing them and the only way to stop them is by suing them.  This can be a costly and time consuming exercise but registering your trademarks is a positive move that can help you during legal proceedings.