Shape Marks

The unique shape of your product is your identity. Safeguard it with the protection of shape marks. Get your shape registered as a trademark.

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What is a shape mark?

A shape mark is a trademark that safeguards the shape of the product. It might be the shape of a product, a good, brand, logo, label, tag, etc that are designed by an individual. The shape marks have three-dimensional marks or shapes which are capable of distinguishing goods and services of one trader from another, which has been registered as trademarks since 786.

Shapes form part of the visual characteristics that help to distinguish a product. For the shape of a product to be registered as a trademark, the shape should be distinctive and should not act as a functional element of the product. For instance, the Coca-Cola bottle acquired a trademark for its shape, to protect its distinctiveness and identity.

A shape mark is also known as shape trademarks. Such a shape must have the capability to find goods sold under the trademark. This is a very beneficial process for blind people because some marks can be printed in Braille (A system of reading and writing for blind persons, through touch). Such trademarks are high in demand.

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What are the rules to be followed in a shape mark?

According to trademark rules, 2002, a shape mark must have a three-dimensional mark, the mark must consist of graphical representation or photographic reproduction as follows:

  • The product furnished must consist of three-dimensional views of the trademark.
  • If the registrar is not up to the satisfactory level, the applicant will be asked to furnish five different views of the mark and describe by words of the mark.
  • Additionally, if the registrar is not satisfied, he/she may call upon the applicant to furnish a specimen of the trademark.

Benefits of a shape mark

Once the shape mark has been registered, the following points are beneficial for the registrar:

  • It grants the right to use the shape of the product to use the registered trademark symbol.
  • Additionally, it grants the right to file a trademark infringement (violation) lawsuit in federal court and to secure monetary damages.
  • It acts as a bar for an individual’s idea for the shape mark so that others can bring out the same shape for trademark registration.
  • The ability to have the customs service (importation of goods) bearing an infringing mark.
  • Moreover, shape marks serve as the basis for an international trademark application.

Advantages of shape mark registration in India

  • The owner secures exclusive right over the shape mark.
  • It builds trust and goodwill.
  • It differentiates goods and products.
  • It exemplifies the product’s quality.
  • It creates an intangible asset.
  • The registered shape trademark can use the symbol.
  • They can have protection against infringements.
  • It has protection for 10 years at a low cost.
  • Likewise, it has a global trademark registration.
  • It attracts human resources.

Checklist requirements for registering a shape mark in India

The requirements for filing shape marks as trademarks are outlined in the Trademark Rules, 2002. The requirements are:

  • The applicant must report a written description of the shape which is to be used as a trademark along with a two dimensional graphic or photographic representation of the mark presented in at least three different angles of viewing.
  • If the registrar is not satisfied with the application details, the applicant may be asked to present the mark in five additional angles of viewing and provide a further verbose description of the mark.
  • Additionally, if the registrar is still not satisfied with the application, the applicant may be asked to submit a specimen of the shape along with the application.

Shape mark registration in India

According to the Indian Trademarks Act, a trademark may involve the shape or appearance of goods or their packaging, so long as it is possible to graphically represent the same. Such a shape distinguishes the goods sold under such a trademark from those of another manufacturer.

Additionally, the shape mark has to satisfy certain criteria to be eligible to use as a trademark. The following criteria are required for shape mark registration;

Nature of goods

The shape mark should not result from the nature of the goods themselves. This criterion expects that shapes being registered as trademarks must be differentiated from the goods or services, for which they can be practised. The distinctive features of a shape are analyzed based on the presumed expectations of reasonably knowledgeable consumers.

Technical result

The shape should be necessary to obtain a technical result. This criterion has been put in place to determine whether the shape that has been registered is not a result of some technical process used in manufacturing the goods for which the shape has been registered. Granting such a trademark would effectively mean denying other products manufacturers the right to produce goods of a similar shape. Hence, in such cases, where it is made that the components of a particular good being produced are based on functional considerations essential for arriving at a technical result. Hence, protection under the Trademarks Act cannot be given to such goods.

Value of goods

The shape should not be such that it gives ample value to the goods. This criterion has been put in place to safeguard other manufactures of similar goods, who may lose out on the value of their goods if the shape being registered is a crucial part of the product completion method and adds an element of value to complete goods in terms of design or outward appearance. This criterion is defined based on an analysis of the shape being enrolled and the shape of other comparable goods.

Documents required for a shape mark

  • When registering shape trademarks, an important thing to do is to provide photographic images of goods or products, and also all the relevant detailed drawings.
  • Apart from drawings, there can be a standard video recording portraying a trademark from different angles. For instance, some mobile phones have multiple-angle recording capacity, through which the phone may be used later to get a rotational view of the object and examine it from all sides.
  • For shape trademarks, the register could also provide an image file of the object which can be rotated by a mouse, and viewed from various angles.

Frequently asked questions

A three-dimensional trademark involves the shape of products and goods or its packaging. A shape that finds the goods or services of one business from those of other businesses can be registered as a shape trademark.

The graphical representation of the shape mark: The representation of the shape trademark must be easy to understand and should be able to identify the mark. It is needed to make a statement to the effect, in the application for the registration.

The shape must acquire a distinct character: The main issue faced while registering the shape mark is when the proprietor has to prove the inherent distinctiveness of the mark. But now, the trademark office does not expect the evidence for showing prior use of the shape trademark.

The term of registration of a trademark is for 10 years. It can be renewed for a further period of ten years on payment of prescribed renewal fees. An application for renewing a trademark registration can be filed any time during the 6 months before the expiration of the registration renewal validity.
The shape of Zippo lighters, the shape of the Gorbatschow, the branded Vodka bottle are examples of shape marks in India. Here, the shapes of goods have been recognized as a valid trademark. In line with the increase of unconventional shapes, smell, sound, color trademarks, that are being granted globally.

Three-dimensional trademarks are becoming popular in India, as they help in making products readily distinctive, more striking and impressive, and help in overcoming the business competition and to meet certain inevitable requirements of products.

Some of the examples of 3D shape marks are the contour of a Coca-Cola bottle, the shape of the Zippo Lighter, the 3D shape of the Super Cub Scooter of Honda, or the Toblerone packaging.

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