Protecting beautiful pieces of art, your brand or any form of intellectual property doesn't have to be daunting. Have you ever used any signs, logos, phrases, colours etc on your services or products?

Are these signs, logos, phrases or colours registered as a trademark?

In my interaction with entrepreneurs over the years, particularly with small to medium-sized businesses, I found it baffling that some spent so much time and money promoting their business under a particular trademark or trademarks without ever having bothered to protect these trademarks. In fact, many of them learned the hard way.

When asked why they hadn't, some of the reasons given, were:

  1. Lack of knowledge of the fact that protection is available
  2. The cost associated with protection, and more worrying;
  3. that they are waiting for the business to be well established before they spend money on protection.

Today, when even registered trademarks are being infringed with impunity or challenged for lack of distinctness, why would anyone not opt to protect their trademarks? It appears that education is required in this area.

Trademark protection and registration should not be the last thing on an entrepreneur's mind but rather the first item to be tackled when one decides to use any particular sign, logo, phrase, colours etc or a combination of any of them on a product or service.

But how does this apply to Ghana?

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a sign or combination of signs capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from the goods and services of another undertaking. A trademark may consist of words, personal names, designs, letters, colours, numerals, shapes, holograms, sounds or a combination of any of these elements, or slogans, where they are not long enough to be protected by copyright.

How are trademarks protected in Ghana?

Protection of a trademark is done by registration, and this is very simple. A person using any signs, logos, phrases or colours etc., on products and services must first:

  1. determine which specific goods or services protection is required;
  2. Fill a standard form to apply for the registration of a trademark and submit the form together with samples of the logo to the trademarks registry at the Registrar General's Department; and
  3. Pay the prescribed fee.

After submission, the application will then be examined and published in the trademark journal if approved. Upon publication, if no opposition is filed within two months from the date of the publication, a trademark certificate will be issued upon the payment of a prescribed fee.

Registration of a trademark is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of filing and can be renewed at a fee for consecutive periods of ten years.

So, if there is one lesson here, it is: Do not wait. Protect your trademarks today.

As we prepare to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day on 26th April 2023, it is my hope that there will be more education and awareness on Intellectual Property rights in Ghana, in particular with emphasis on small and medium-sized business who I have found over the years to be more susceptible to infringement of their trademarks.

This year's theme, Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and creativity is apt. I am excited to be part of this education and welcome anyone to reach out with questions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.