Legal AdviceTrademarks

How to Trademark Your Online Course

:With the surge in online courses in various streams, the competition has also increased in leaps and bounds. To distinguish these online portals from those of the competitors, it is important that their brand names and logos are protected under the TradeMarks Act, 1999.

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The onset of the pandemic changed the course of education forever. It’s true that the preference for online education had been quite prevalent even before COVID 19. But with the outbreak of the pandemic, several certifications went online as there was little to no access to classroom training. Further, during the endless lockdowns, several professionals wanted to keep themselves occupied and make the most out of the time at hand and online courses came to their rescue. On the other hand, several tutors who wanted to monetise their knowledge, found it fairly simple to circulate them as online courses, targeting the right audience. The methodology is now a huge hit, so much so that, despite the fact that the world is getting back to its normal ways, it appears that the online courses would still be the favorite of several brainy heads.

Trademark Registration for Online Course:

Any business is distinguished from the others in the market through its brand name and logo. An online course over the internet is no different! The brand name is the ticket that takes the course to its target audience and hence it should be kept safe and sound. The only way to accomplish it is to trademark the brand name and the logo of the course. Once the trademark is registered, every person other than the registered user will be refrained from using it. This is exactly why the major players in this space mean serious business when they trademark their brands. For instance, ‘Udemy’, ‘Coursera’ etc are well-known online portals that offer a plethora of courses and have trademarked their brand names. Thus, it is imperative to trademark the brand name of online courses, as in the case of any business. Further, with the growth in social media, it is easier to infringe the trademark of an online business, than a physical one.

While attempting to protect the brand name of an online program, the following factors have to be kept in mind.

  1. Run a Trademark Search:

The first step the applicant has to go ahead with is the trademark search. A trademark search would ensure that the name the applicant is intending to choose for the online course is unique. It is important that the name thus chosen should not infringe or sound or appear deceptively similar to any of the existing trademarks.


  1. Steer Clear of Generic Names:

Although it might sound like the most obvious thing to do, giving an obvious name to the online course such as ‘The Indian Cooking Course’ is highly discouraged. It’s true that names like these would reach the audience better and marketing the course could be a cakewalk. But it has to be kept in mind that a trademark would enable the applicant to have a monopoly on the respective trade name. Exercising such a monopoly on generic names cannot be justified. Also, such generic names get infringed by competitors or third parties, sometimes unintentionally. So, if a competitor adds an online course with a similar name, the applicant cannot pursue any action against the former.

  1. Is it Mandatory?

The most important question that bothers an entrepreneur that launches an online course is this! Is a trademark registration the need of the hour? Well, it depends on the priorities of the entrepreneur. Whether registered or not, a trademark right subsists in a brand once it is out in the public. An unregistered trademark can still seek protection under common law but not under the Trademarks Act, 1999. The main disadvantage here is that the plaintiff has to go a long way to prove the existence of a trademark right when it is not registered. Therefore, the best thing to do is to go ahead and register the trademark and there shall be no regrets in future.

  1. Are Trademarks and Approval of Company Name under the Companies Act, 2013 the same?

Several online portals that offer courses are registered as private limited companies under the Companies Act, 2013. As a part of the process, the applicants have to submit the name of the company to seek the approval of the Registrar of companies. The R.U.N (Reserve Unique Name) web service has been in place to check if the name is unique or if it is infringing the names of any existing companies.

However, this does not instill any trademark rights in the brand name, even if the name is approved by the Registrar of Companies. The applicant has to seek the approval of the Trademark Registry in order to enjoy the monopoly over the trade name.

  1. Trademark Registration:

The curator of the online course can make an online application to the Trademark Registry through the form TM-1 mentioning the trademark after conducting a thorough search. The applicant has to furnish the identity and address proofs along with the application. Thereafter, the application is examined to check if the trademark is unique. If there are no disparities, the trademark is published in the Indian Trademark Journal. The trademark registration certificate is issued if there is no opposition raised. If there should be any opposition, the Registrar convenes a hearing calling the applicant and the parties of the opposition and decides the case based on the merits.

The experts at Vakilsearch are perfectly suited to hold your hand right through the process. Reach out to us today.


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