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Trade Mark Protection

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Trade mark protection by registration

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You can register all signs as trade marks that are suitable for distinguishing goods or services of a particular enterprise from that of other enterprises. Trade marks can consist of words, letters, numbers, pictures, three-dimensional objects or sounds. Depending on the sign, the different types of trade marks are referred to as word mark, figurative mark, three-dimensional mark or sound mark.

Any owner of a registered trade mark should use the mark. If a trade mark is not used within a period of five years after registration, it can be cancelled, upon request or legal action, on grounds of revocation.

Types of trade marks

If you file a trade mark you must indicate whether your trade mark is to be registered as a

  • word mark
  • figurative mark, combined word and figurative mark
  • three-dimensional mark
  • sound mark
  • tracer mark
  • other type of mark


Word marks consist of words, letters, numbers or other characters that can be typed or printed using the DPMA's standard font. Figurative marks are pictures, graphical elements or images (without word elements). Combined word and figurative marks consist of a combination of word elements and graphical elements, or of words in a graphical style. Three-dimensional marks are objects consisting of a three-dimensional shape. Sound marks are acoustic, audible marks, that means sounds, jingles, melodies or other tunes or noises. Tracer marks are less well known. They consist of coloured stripes or threads fastened to certain products.

Absolute grounds for refusal

The DPMA examines trade mark applications for absolute grounds for refusal. We do not examine whether there are relative grounds for refusal, that means whether the trade mark infringes third party rights.

A trade mark will only be registered if there are no absolute grounds for refusal. A trade mark will not be registered if it

  • lacks distinctiveness
  • consists of descriptive terms that must be kept free for general use
  • is liable of misleading the public
  • contains state emblems
  • is contrary to public policy or the accepted principles of morality


Signs will not be registered, for example, if they cannot be represented graphically, if they are not distinctive or if they merely describe the goods and services concerned.

Exclusive right

Upon registration of the trade mark, the owner has the exclusive right to use the trade mark in relation to the protected goods and/or services. In case of infringement of his trade mark right, he is entitled to seek injunctive relief or claim damages from the infringer.

Trade marks can be sold and bought. The owner can grant a right of use of the trade mark to third parties (trade mark licence).

© 2016 Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt | Last updated 29/09/16