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Trademark protection for startups – now with up to 1,000 euros in funding

A registered trademark is an integral part of sustainable economic success for founders. Below we provide five tips and basic knowledge about registered trademarks and show how entrepreneurs can receive funding of up to EUR 1,000 for trademark applications via the SME Fund.

1. Trademark protection stands for trust in your company

Registering your trademark ensures that no one can use it for business purposes without your permission. You can also take legal action against the use of similar signs that may want to profit from your trademark’s reputation. This protects your customers from receiving the wrong product or service, and protects your trademark from misuse.

By protecting the brand, customers can be sure that the goods or services on offer actually come from your company.  With the quality and service they are used to from you.

Once registered, a trademark is protected for ten years. After that, trademark protection can be renewed again and again for a further ten years.

2. Trademark searches are essential

Conversely, it is also highly advisable to research whether the planned trademark does not infringe existing older trademark rights before applying for a trademark, but also before using a trademark.

Once you have introduced a trademark, you may be warned because you are infringing the rights of third parties. Not only will you then have to stop using the trademark immediately, but you may also have to disclose delivery routes, recall or destroy products and provide information about the profits you have made. Not to mention the associated damage to your image. If you have to change your company name, you will have to start all over again. This should be avoided.

It is therefore essential to carry out comprehensive research before registering or using a trademark to ensure that your plans do not infringe the rights of third parties.

3. What is a brand anyway?

A brand is used to distinguish a company’s products or services from those of its competitors. For example, many companies produce cars, but there is only one manufacturer in Ingolstadt, which is called Audi.

The brand thus represents a unique and unmistakable term or slogan that is exclusive to your company and may not be used by others.

In contrast, purely descriptive terms such as “success coach” or “tutoring coach” or “smart TV” are not trademarks in the sense of trademark law. They are not terms that can be protected by a trademark. Anyone should be allowed to use such descriptive terms. They only describe the goods or services offered and must be kept free.

This criterion applies in each case in relation to the protected goods or services. A fruit retailer cannot protect the term “apple” as a trademark. However, a computer manufacturer can protect the term because it is not descriptive but distinctive for computers.

4. Brand forms

The most common type of trademark is the word mark. This is a term that is used as a trademark and is written as it would be written on a typewriter. From a legal point of view, the word mark is the strongest and most flexible type of mark, especially if the main criterion of distinctiveness is met. For this reason, we regularly recommend it.

There is also the so-called word/figurative mark, where a logo can be protected as a trademark. If, on the other hand, you want to protect a purely graphic logo, this is referred to as a figurative mark.

5. Brand protection with funding of up to 1,000 euros

Solid trademark protection is therefore important for founders and startups to ensure sustainable commercial success. Sound advice with research avoids expensive trademark conflicts and puts your project on a solid foundation. At the same time, platforms such as Amazon with the “Amazon Brand Registry” promise further advantages for retailers if they have a registered trademark.

A registered trademark is therefore a recommendable investment, preferably right at the beginning of your startup.

Until December 6, 2024, you have the opportunity to have your trademark application funded by the European Union with up to 1,000 euros as part of the so-called SME Fund. The requirements for successfully applying for funding are fairly straightforward:

The grant is available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs with a maximum of 250 employees and a maximum annual turnover of EUR 50 million) that meet the following conditions:

  • Your company must be based in the European Union (EU), regardless of its legal form. A limited liability company is not a mandatory requirement.
  • It must have a VAT number (UID) or a tax ID.
  • The company must not have received any financial support from the EU for the registration of trademarks or designs in 2024.

You can apply for funding directly to the EUIPO in Alicante. However, law firms like ours can also prepare the application for funding for you and submit it to the Office. We have prepared more detailed information on this with a form for a simple application here.