joi, 26 noiembrie 2015

With a little delay, please read now e new article "The trademark vectors - the territory".
Versiunea în limba română se găsește la adresa

 Trademark vectors
The territory

In the introductory article on the trademark vectors I have mentioned that the definitions of the trademark that are currently used, are not in a smooth concordance with the reality of the market because the requirement that a trademark has to registered is not stated in those definitions.
If we were to accept this fact, then, as first consequence, we would face the volume of the trademark protection, this new concept being defined by the three vectors which in fact determine this volume protection: the territory where the trademark is registered, the list of goods and services for which the trademark is registered and the sign, the sign which should be visually perceptible, according with TRIPS Agreement.
Obviously there are also other opinions, which is normal. Only God knows the truth, we mortals can only get near it by debates based on principles and arguments.
Meanwhile we have to accept the obvious. The power of a trademark has many roots, but the principal pivot is given by the defense system which the trademark has at its disposal and which determines the trademarks strength.
What activates this defense system of the trademark? The registering.
What provides this defense system to the trademark? The law.
Who ensures the compliance of the provisions of the law? The public authority.
Where can the public authority be exercised? On its territory of competence.
So, we just arrived to the point! The territory.
Having the trademark in our mind, could we give a definition for the “territory”?
Let’s try: the territory is the surface of land where the law, according with a specific trademark was registered, is in force.
Remaining focused on the trademark, what could be the characteristics of this territory, as one of the three vectors of a trademark?
Before answering to that, please allow me a short parenthesis. In mathematics a vector has some specific characteristics, much more complex than what we need here in order to explain as clear as possible what it is, and how big is it, the protection of a trademark. In fact how big is the space covered by the exclusive rights resulting from the registration of a trademark? Therefore we will borrow from mathematics only one of the characteristics of vectors, namely the magnitude, meaning how big is a vector.
The magnitude of the vector “territory” is given by the size of the surface where the registration of the trademark is valid, having as basic unit the territory of a state, where we have a power of a public authority.
Obviously, a trademark will be registered with effects on the territory of a state, which is the minimum possible (at least today!), according with the territorial principle, sanctioned by the Paris Convention many years ago.
To be better undersood, let’s take as example the territory of my country, Romania. We have, like many, many other countries, a national administration for industrial property, trademarks, patents, industrial design being part of industrial property, namely the State Office for Inventions and Trademarks and we have a law, governing trademarks and geographical indications.
According to this law, the protection given to a registered trademark, once all procedures are completed, covers the national territory of Romania, equal, uniform like a blanket which covers every square centimeter, following fields, hills, mountains, lakes, rivers, territorial sea, the trademark protection being present not only in the commercial areas, but everywhere.
Regarding the “blanket” mentioned before, please remember what we were saying about the volume of protection in the introductory article. The blanket will be as thick as consistent the list of goods & services is: if the list is long, the blanket will be thick, if the list contains one or two items, the blanket will be a lot thinner.
When it comes to the texture of the “blanket”, remember that it depends on the sign, on how it is perceived by the consumers and, very important, on how distinctive is it.
This is the rule, not only for Romania. There is no way to have a trademark protected only for a part of the basic territory.
Really? Can we have something, link to a trademark, which can cover less that the territory of a country?
Connected to this aspect, let’s say a few words about something which restricts, or better said, can restrict the territory for the right of use of a trademark, but not its protection. It is about the license contract, which does not diminish the protection of the trademark from a territorial point of view. On the contrary, the territorial component of the license agreement is based exactly on the territorial protection of the trademark. It would be better to say that the license contract determines the territory where the licensee can use the right received by this contract. This territory can be smaller than the territory where the trademark, the object of the license contract, is protected.
This territorial principle in the registration of a trademark started to be seen as a constraint in the sense that the commercial exchanges became intensive and dealt very easy with the borders, using customs regimes increasingly more permissive.
From this perception to the real need to have a trademark protected on an extensive territory was less than one step which has been made in 1891 by the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks.
This international agreement represented a real progress in understanding the necessity for an extensive territory for the trademark protection using a minimum procedure, but was not enough. Not enough because this “international protection” is not a real one. In fact it is just a sum of many national trademark protections and for the procedure. Let’s takes a brief view.    
The Madrid Agreement introduced a single application, filed with the International Bureau, based on a national trademark registered in the country of origin. The designated contracting states will examine the trademark application upon their domestic law and decide accordingly, in one year from the international registration or from the request for extension of protection. Easy to understand that the trademark will be registered and will provide a different protection in the designated states, taking into account the existing situation at national level in every country. Firstly, we have to take into consideration the previous rights, in force on the territory of those countries, rights which can be opposed ex officio or in other procedures. As a result, on some territories we can have the same protection like in the country of origin; in others the situation could be significantly different. Secondly, within five years from the date of the international registration, the protection resulted is dependent on the trademarks’ fate in the country of origin. Moreover, within these five years, if the trademark “disappears” from the country of origin for a reason or other, no protection can be claimed in any designated countries which were indicated in the international application or as subsequent designations. In other words, even if the applicant of an international application initially decides on specific territory for obtaining international protection on it, at the end of the day this protection could be varied from one designated state to another. This result will be obtained by following the provisions of different laws and obviously with different costs from country to country. 
Keeping our interest focused on the territory, we can say that the Madrid Agreement had, throughout the time, a right vision about this dimension of the trademark protection. More precisely, the negotiations for its improvements brought into the Madrid Agreement, after its revision from Nice in 1957, the Article 9quater which open a new way for developing of the international protection of trademarks. It is about the possibility that a group of states has to be recognized like a single one if they agree to effect the unification of their domestic laws on marks and, in the same time, the whole of their respective territories shall be deemed to be a single country for the purposes of the application of the provision of the Madrid Agreement. More, a common Office shall be substituted for the national Office of each of this group of states.
What could be said at this point? In the future, based on a little surrender of sovereignty, some states can consent to a common trademark law and a common trademark office to represent their common interest in trademark protection. In short, one law, one administration, one procedure, one protection covering all their territories, options which are highly desirable.
What follows is a small, but a very important step – the Benelux trademark, based on the Benelux Convention on Trade Marks, formed in 1962 and replaced in 2005 by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property. What does this mean? Three states - The Netherland, Belgium and Luxembourg decided to go together for the trademark protection, using one law and one administration which follow a single procedure for all trademark applications. From now on these countries were seen as one in all trademark related concerns. Their decision was taken into consideration for applications filed in the Madrid system as follows: as of January 1th1971 for the Madrid Agreement and as of April 1th 1998, for the Madrid Protocol.
What is Madrid Protocol?
Chronologically, it is time to talk about it and it is also relevant for our subject – territory vector of the trademark protection volume – because the territorial implications are important. We are talking about 55 countries contracting parties of the Agreement, opposed to 95 countries contracting parties of the Protocol, this one being much more attractive as the Madrid Agreements.
There are many presentations of the Madrid Protocol, so I will not do another one here, remaining focused on the territory. Let’s only say that it was adopted in 1989 and took effect on April 1st, 1996.
Why is the Madrid Protocol important also for territorial aspects, among others?
Firstly, because all the contracting parties from the Protocol cover a bigger territory unlike the case of the Madrid Agreement. Consequently, it is easier to access that bigger territory with an international application based on the Protocol.
Secondly, because the Protocol allows us to “save our back”, as opposed to the provisions of the Madrid Agreement. What does this mean? Suppose that there is an international application, having designated many countries, based on a trademark application in the country of origin. After lengthy proceedings, at the end of the fifth year or even later in some circumstances, the trademark application is definitely rejected in the country of origin and consequently the protection in all designated states will disappear. In this case, the provisions of the Protocol, unlike the ones of the Agreement, will allow us to file the trademark application in every of those countries, preserving the filing date of the international application. Obviously that will happen according to the specific interest of the owner who can decide where those transformation applications will be filed in order to keep the initial territory of protection or not.
Thirdly, because with a single designation it’s possible to cover the territory of the European Union, meaning 28 countries today, but only 15 countries in 1998 when EU became a part of the Madrid Protocol.
We have here a similar case with Benelux countries that could be now seen as a beginning, followed by another step, much bigger, represented by European Union with its Council Regulation (EC) No 40/94 of 20 December 1993 on the Community trade mark, amended as Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009. Thanks to it, the “international territory” for the protection of a trademark received the consistency it needed.
The Community Trademark Regulation offered, since April 1th 1996, an instrument for obtaining trademark protection on a huge territory, meaning all European Union, using a single administration, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market – an agency of the European Commission, located in Alicante, Spain and obviously a single procedure for registration and granting protection for the community trademarks.
An important characteristic of this way for trademark protection is the unitary character, which preserves the unitary character of the territory of protection in all circumstances, meaning that all that happens with the community trademark (application or registered) has the same effect on all EU territory.
Now we have the perfect example of the “blanket” which covers the territory of many countries, including EU countries, with an exclusive right that was obtained, for a part of the territory meaning EU, using the same procedure, according to the same law and paying the same fees, using the Community Regulations. For the other part of the territory, the exclusive right was obtained based on an international treaty which allowed gathering up the protection gained on different territories, even if that protection was obtained according to a different law, with a different procedure and obviously a different office. This means that the territory vector, as component of the trademark protection volume, can vary from the unity – the territory of a country – to plurality, covering the territory of many countries, but following two different approaches.
The first approach is “discrete”, because even if it starts from the same point – international application, having behind a trademark registration in the country of origin - the protection could be different from country to country, because of the sign and the list of goods and services compared with earlier rights registered in a specific country. Metaphorically speaking, the “blanket” could have a different thickness on the territory, from country to country.
On the contrary, the second approach is “continuous” because of the unitary character of protection as it is the case of those which were obtained based on the Benelux Convention and on the Community Trademark Regulation.
At least in the case of a community trademark, this unitary character may be very clearly expressed from the point of view of territory as “all or nothing”, meaning that if the community trademark is registered then it is protected on the entire EU territory. If it is rejected, then it is the end of story, the trademark is unprotected in all EU territory.
Right! But in the latter case we find a similar situation, resulted from the provisions of the Madrid Protocol. In some cases when the protection of a community trademark cannot be obtained or it is lost for different reasons, the Community Trademark Regulation offers the possibility to convert it into national trademark applications, preserving the application date of the community trademark. Once this opportunity is used, the trademark protection will be obtained in the territories where it was asked for and where the trademark application will be accepted. In such conditions the protection became “discrete”, being a sum of many national protections.
Finally, we can conclude that the magnitude of the territory vector is increasing continuously, materializing, on one hand, the intensification of the production and alike the consumption and on the other hand it is the expression of the permanent intent to conquest new markets.
Obviously a “continuous” protection offers many more advantages as opposed to a “discrete” one for the simple fact that it has to deal only with one administration instead of several, each one for every country covered by trademark protection. Imagine what 28 European countries covered by Madrid System mean and how simple it is using Community Trademark Regulation! But do not forget! Even for a community trademark the defense of the right has to be done in a ”discrete” way.  

marți, 1 septembrie 2015

The Trademark. Basic notions, vectors of the trademark

Hoping the following article will help those who want to know something (or more) about trademarks.

The Trademark

Basic notions, vectors of the trademark

Where should we start when defining the notion ”trademark”, so that to be certain that it is the beginning, I mean the "beginning of the beginnings”?

And how, and why, to talk about trademark anymore, in a world of ”brands” where everybody, or almost everybody, aims to build their own ”brand” without talking about trademark?

Well, we could start building our story based on the old saying that „advertising is the soul of commerce”, right? 
We even not finished the sentence and the critics will emerge: “- Advertising is too new, on the historic scale, to be considered as the beginning”.

And you know what? They are right. The only thing is that I did not mean by that sentence what disturbs us all in the modern world, on all possible communication channels.

What I had in mind was that old cry, nowadays almost disappeared, at the fairs or whatever the way people of old made commerce (dear critics, we can agree that commerce is old, can’t we?). It was that cry that made people gather around one particular wagon or stall (sometimes a ragged blanket on the ground) just because there was something there interesting enough for them to have it.

To have it!

But of course, now we have our start! Here began everything!

The wish of mankind “to have”, this is the “beginning of the beginnings”. And this wish was strong both for the one yelling to praise what he was selling and to the one(s) willing to trade anything just to have it.

Nice so far, but what about the trademark?

Well, the trademark is born from the same human wish “to have”, but “to have” slightly more than others!

When the merchandise of our vocal seller started to be looked for, he also started to have more. Other people were looking for him in order to get his merchandise, recognizing him after his face – first trademark! And after that, our guy decided to mark somehow his merchandise, for trading it in such a way to make all know that it belongs to him, and to make other buyers - who did not see him yet, to know that it is his stuff and to look for him and his trade.

Later, all kind of things started to happen. First of all, there was another man who made a lot of trade with our “marking” guy and it was good, because he had more. Another time, somebody else came to him complaining that his stuff was not good; when they both checked, the mark and the good were a little bit different and definitely not coming from our guy – the first counterfeit!

Not long after, the other man who was making a lot of trade with our hero asked him to change the mark on the merchandise and offered to pay him more and he was true to his word and our hero had more and more.

Still, even though he changed the mark as was requested by his partner, he still scribbled somewhere less visible on the merchandise, the initial mark ”Handmade by Buru-Bara” as the others called him....

Obviously I am joking! Actually just telling a story! But believe me, our hero made a mark, either a detail in the construction, either carved in stone or he made two knots on a rope who was supposed to have only one, or chiseled two lines on a column supposed to have three, or any kind of a particular sign.

And from here on, things evolved the way we all know and traces of marking (signing by a mark) are to be found in all kind of information sources.
But finally, what is the trademark?

The World Organization for Intellectual Property (WIPO) body of United Nations (UN) located in Geneva, Switzerland, posts on its website the following definition: “A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights.”

The Directive 2008/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks provides a more extended definition: A trade mark may consist of any signs capable of being represented graphically, particularly words, including personal names, designs, letters, numerals, the shape of goods or of their packaging, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

The Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark provides the same definition as the EC directive, above.

In Romania, the Law no. 84/1998 on trademarks and geographical indications modified by the Law no. 66/2010, adopts the following definition for a trademark: ” Trademarks may consist of any sign capable of being represented graphically, such as: words, including personal names, designs, letters, numerals, figurative elements, three-dimensional shapes and, particularly, the shape of goods or of packaging thereof, colors, combinations of colors, holograms, acoustic signals, as well as any combination thereof, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.”

Unfortunately, by no identified reason, these definitions are yet poor, they do not disclose everything on trademarks, even though they speak about them and worse, they do not highlight what is really important, i.e. the difference between a trademark and any other sign used as a mark.

Except the definition of WIPO, which includes the fact that trademarks are protected by IP rights, the others do not even suggest what a trademark really is, reducing its meaning to just one of its components, that is the sign. I would not go so far as saying that this deficiency is the root cause of the current confusion between trademark and brand, but it is very near. We have no choice but to live with these small or not so small deficiencies in the “system”, speaking of which, here is another one.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), adopted in 1994 and ratified by Romania in the same year, says at Art. 15(1) that member states may require, as a condition of registration, that signs be visually perceptible. Perhaps somebody thought that during the current (r)evolution of means of communication, and trademarks cannot be separated from the communication act, it would be better to evolve from the concept of “graphical representation” to the one of “visual perception”. Unfortunately, the definitions which are subsequent of TRIPS did not maintain this evolutionary trend and the definitions of trademark are now blocked in the obsolete form of “graphical representation”.

Coming back to the main topic of this discussion, the trademark cannot be defined as a sign in a globalized economy where the competition is the key factor. Instead, in order to have a better understanding of the term trademark, it should be clearly stated that this sign has to be registered first for some goods & services, and only then we can talk about a trademark.

Please allow a short parenthesis. It's true that there are different trademarks filing systems, but this issue is not the object of this article. Anyway, it is speaking about two filing systems and even in the "first to use" system, only the registration of a trademark transforms it in a really weapon on the market.
This new wording would confirm, would emphasize that a trademark is a combination of three vectors that ensure a certain volume of protection, as a consequence of registration. We are referring here to the sign, the list of goods & services associated with that respective sign and, finally, the (geographical) territory where that protection is valid.

These three vectors – the sign, the list of goods & services and the territory – define the volume of a certain trademark protection in the sense that they certify the exclusive right to use it once it is registered (fig 1). Again, without preliminary registration we cannot refer to a trademark. We can only refer to it as a sign used in commerce, but it is important to bear in mind that a sign does not have the power nor the authority of a trademark registered for a certain territory.

Considering we are ignorant when it comes to "religion" of the trademarks, let’s try to uncover the ‘volume of protection’ that a trademark can ensure. We will start with the individual analysis of the three vectors that we previously mentioned that are already familiar to us, going from what we know towards the unknown and gain complexity along the way.

Hence, we will start with the territory, as this element is the easiest to comprehend, being the most clear in the current context. Even though the frontiers are more and more blurred, we can still talk about independence, about sovereignty, about a legislative system unique for every country. Consequently, the territory vector will be quite easy to understand, having in mind that a registration for a trademark is made upon a law valid on a clear and limited territory.

We will then continue with the analysis of the second vector, the list of goods & services. The comprehension of this element depends on the interest manifested towards registering a trademark. This vector has a traceability determined by the international regulations related to the classification of certain goods and services for which we are trying to register a trademark. Except some particularities, the list of product & services vector will be relatively easy to understand as well.

The sign registered as a trademark was not left to the end due to its difficulty, but due to a certain dose of subjectivism present in the process of evaluation. There are rules, of course, but the perception of the sign is subjective, the feeling generated by a certain sign depends on many factors and it can be different for every individual consumer. For this reasons, the sign vector will be analyzed last, considering it is the most important aspect that guarantees the success of a trademark.

Let’s review once more the definitions that we gave for a trademark.

It is easy to notice that there is a common ground between all the examples given above. This common ground is the distinctiveness, in the sense that the most important aspect of a trademark is the capacity to distinguish the goods or services of one company from the ones of another company.

This distinctiveness is not a joke. This is a characteristic that can be difficult to understand, but we have to bear in mind that it is one of the most important criteria that needs to be met when it is trying to register a trademark.

As repetitio mater studiorum est I will explain again.

The distinctiveness of a trademark, as specified in the above definitions as well, is the capacity to distinguish between goods or services, specifically being able to differentiate between the goods and services of one company and the ones of a different company. So, clearly the distinctiveness relates to brand itself relative to the goods & services that are offered under that mark and not to compare that mark with another, or worse, with many identical or similar marks are previously registered. There is a big mistake in saying that a trademark is devoid of distinctiveness because it is identical to another trademark that was previously registered. These are the consequences of such a statement.

Our logic guides us toward the conclusion that a certain notion needs to correspond to its own definition, right? Consequently, you cannot state that a trademark is devoid of distinctiveness and so it cannot be registered because it is identical to another trademark. In such cases, the trademark that was registered first could also be accused of devoid of distinctiveness as much as the first one. Hence, where is the error?

I will use another example, already a classic, hoping to clarify these aspects.

The combination warm bread is devoid of distinctiveness when it comes to bakery goods. Obviously, anyone can bake warm bread and if these two words are written on the package there is no way to find out who the producer is. There is a totally different thing, however, if the same combination of words in used for alcoholic beverages, for example. In a context as this one, the combination of words warm bread registered as a trademark for alcoholic beverages cannot be considered to lack distinctiveness only because it was registered before for bakery goods. This would mean that no word from the dictionary can be used to register a trademark because it has a meaning of its own, but it is completely untrue, as the databases are full of trademarks based on common words.

On the other hand, let’s suppose that we have a trademark registered based on a fictional word, a word that does not exist in any dictionary related to the goods or services under that specific trademark. This would be an example of a trademark with a high degree of distinctiveness. If an identical trademark is requested to be registered for the same goods or services, it cannot be stated that it is devoid of distinctiveness because there is an identical trademark previously registered. In other words, the lack of distinctiveness is not measured by the number of identical or almost identical trademarks that operate in a certain market.

If there are two identical trademarks operating in the same marketplace, we face to likelihood of confusion between the producers, which is a totally different topic opposed to the lack of distinctiveness of a trademark. The possible occurrence of likelihood of confusion, perhaps in combination with the likelihood of association, involving reactions of owners or applicants, special procedures brought before some authority ... but they are part of another debate.

We’ve shown so far that a trademark, registered of course, generates a volume of protection and exclusive rights based on three different vectors, none of which being the distinctiveness discussed above.

After all these statements on the importance that the distinctiveness has when it comes to a registered trademark, you are entitled to ask what does the distinctiveness of a trademark consists of? How can it be described to ensure it is easily understood?

When it comes to a trademark, the distinctiveness is a very important aspect that deserves our entire attention. This is a topic that we will address in another article, but until then it is important to know that, considering the volume of protection given by the three vectors already known to us, the distinctiveness is represented by the consistence, the density of that volume of protection for the goods & services under that specific trademark. Consequently, if a trademark has a high degree of distinctiveness, it is much known, everybody is talking about it, then the volume of a such a trademark would have the consistency of a granite. Some call it notorious trademark, others trademark with a reputation or well known (fig.2). 
On the contrary, if a trademark has a low degree of distinctiveness, barely meeting the conditions for registration, it would mean that the volume of protection of such a trademark would have a consistency similar to the fog that sticks to the ground on spring (fig.3). Such a trademark is vulnerable and requires a huge budget for promotion thus hoping that was not bestowed on it at birth, might be gain by its use, i.e. distinctiveness.

But let’s not divert from what we previously agreed – first let’s focus on the vectors analysis.

I will see you, then, in "the territory" and I will be very glad to receive your comments on 

luni, 24 august 2015

Marca. Notiuni de baza, vectorii marcii

Pentru că nu mai am răbdare până când va fi gata un site nou, prin care voi comunica cu dumneavoastră, public acum
Noțiuni de bază, vectorii mărcii

De la ce s-ar putea pleca în a prezenta noțiunea de ”marcă” și care să fi fost înaintea tuturor, să fi fost, cum s-ar spune, ”începutul începuturilor”?
Cum și de ce să mai vorbești despre marcă într-o lume a ”brandurilor”, într-o lume în care toți sau aproape toți vor să-și facă un ”brand”?
S-ar putea construi un scenariu plecând de la o vorbă veche potrivit căreia ”reclama este sufletul comerțului”.
Nici nu se termină bine fraza și apar critici! Reclama este o noțiune mult prea nouă pentru a fi considerată ca fiind ”începutul începuturilor”.
De acord! Dar eu nu mă refeream la ce ne astenizează pe noi toți, în lumea modernă, pe toate căile de comunicare. Mă gandeam la strigatul acela din târguri care aduna oamenii în jurul unei căruțe sau în jurul unui țol, întins pe jos, și pe care fiecare putea să observe ceva ce l-ar fi putut interesa ca să-l aibă.
Să-l aibă! 
Da, sigur! Aici a început totul!
Dorința omului de a avea. Acesta este ”începutul începuturilor”! Și a fost la fel de importană atât dorința celui care striga cât îl ținea gura, lăudându-și ce avea de dat, cât și dorința celui care putea oferi ceva la schimb, eventual un bănuț, ca să obțină ceea ce era de dat.
Bine, dar marca?
Ei bine, marca își are obârșia tot în dorința omului de a avea, dar de a avea mai mult decât ceilalți!
În momentul în care ceea ce dădea el la schimb a început să fie căutat, omul a început ”să aibă” de pe urma acestui schimb. Ceilalți oameni îl căutau, recunoscându-l după înfățișare – prima marcă! Apoi a simțit nevoia ca ce plecă de la el să poarte un semn, care să facă legătura directă între el și bunul respectiv, dar să-l și aducă pe mușteriu înapoi pentru noi schimburi.
Mai pe urmă a venit un om cu care a făcut mai multe schimburi, și a fost bine, cămara umplându-se dintr-odată.
Mai pe urmă a venit un alt om care s-a plâns că ce i-a dat lui n-a fost bun, dar când s-a uitat bunul era cam la fel, dar nu era făcut de el! Prima contrafacere!
Mai pe urma a venit la el iarăși omul cu care a facut multe schimburi și i-a zis să pună pe bunul respectiv un alt semn, iar cămara s-a umplut și mai repede ca data trecută. Dar el a fost ”shmeker” și, mai mic, într-un colț, tot a scrijelit ”Handmade by Buru-Bara”, că așa îl strigau ceilalți.
Glumesc, evident! Dar un semn tot și-a facut, dintr-un detaliu de construcție, fie că pe o sfoară a facut două noduri în loc de unul, fie o crestătură în plus acolo unde nu era, sau alte semne de genul acesta.
Iar de-aici lucrurile au avoluat cum știm cu toții, repere ale dezvoltării mărcii de-a lungul timpului găsindu-se foarte ușor în diverse medii de informare.

Până la urmă ce este marca?
Organizația Mondială a Proprietății Intelectuale, organism al Organizației Națiunilor Unite, având sediul la Geneva, propune pe site-ul său următoarea definiție: ”O marcă este un semn capabil să distingă produsele sau serviciile unei întreprinderi de cele ale altor întreprinderi. Mărcile sunt protejate de drepturi de proprietate intelectuală.
Directiva 2008/95/CE a Parlamentului European și a Consiliului, din 22 octombrie 2008, de apropiere a legislațiilor statelor membre cu privire la mărci stabilește o altă definiție, mai extinsă: ”Pot constitui mărci toate semnele susceptibile de reprezentare grafică, în special cuvintele, inclusiv numele de persoane, desenele, literele, cifrele, forma produsului sau a ambalajului său, cu condiția ca astfel de semne să fie capabile să distingă produsele sau serviciile unei întreprinderi de cele ale altor întreprinderi.
Regulamentul (CE) Nr. 207/2009 al Consiliului din 26 februarie 2009 privind marca comunitară adoptă și el o definiție a mărcii, identică cu cea din directivă.
În țara noastră Legea nr. 84/1998 privind mărcile și indicațiile geografice, așa cum a fost ea modificată prin Legea nr. 66/2010, adoptă următoarea definiție a mărcii: ” Poate constitui marcă orice semn susceptibil de reprezentare grafică, cum ar fi: cuvinte, inclusiv nume de persoane, desene, litere, cifre, elemente figurative, forme tridimensionale şi, în special, forma produsului sau a ambalajului său, culori, combinaţii de culori, holograme, semnale sonore, precum şi orice combinaţie a acestora, cu condiţia ca aceste semne să permită a distinge produsele sau serviciile unei întreprinderi de cele ale altor întreprinderi.
Din păcate și fără un motiv bine precizat, aceste definiții sunt încă sărace, nu spun tot despre marcă deși vorbesc despre marcă și, mai grav, nu pun accentul pe ce trebuie, respectiv pe diferența între marcă și un semn oarecare, utilizat ca marcă.
Cu excepția definiției propusă de Organizația Mondială a Proprietății Intelectuale, care amintește de faptul că mărcile sunt protejate de drepturi de proprietate intelectuală, celelalte nici măcar nu sugerează ceea ce este de fapt marca, reducând această noțiune doar la una din componentele sale și anume semnul. Nu aș pune această scăpare, să spunem, la originea confuziei care se face astăzi între marcă și brand, dar nici prea departe nu suntem. Trebuie să ne obișnuim însă cu aceste mici, sau mari, deficiențe ”de sistem”, iar pentru că veni vorba de acest gen de deficiențe, să mai marcăm una.
Acordul privind aspectele drepturilor de proprietate intelectuală legate de comerț (Trips), adoptat în 1994, an în care a fost ratificat și de România, prevede al Art. 15(1) faptul că statele membre pot să ceară, ca o condiție de înregistrare, ca semnele să fie perceptibile vizual. Probabil că cineva s-a gândit la faptul că, în plină (re)evoluție a mijloacelor electronice de comunicare, în esență marca neputând fi disjunsă de această noțiune a comunicării, sfera condiției de ”reprezentare grafică” trebuie extinsă la condiția de ”percepție vizuală”. După cum se poate observa definiții ulterioare Trips-ului nu au preluat acest element evolutiv în ceea ce se numește marcă, rămânând blocate în formularea veche, aceea de reprezentare grafică.
Revenind la firul principal al expunerii, într-o economie globalizată, în care concurența este factorul dominant, marca nu mai poate fi definită doar ca un semn, ci ar trebui specificat clar, pentru o mai bună percepție a noțiunii de marcă în piață, faptul că acest semn trebuie să fie înregistrat pentru anumite produse și/sau servicii și abia după aceea se poate vorbi despre marcă.
Această nouă formulare ar confirma, ar scoate în evidență, ar arăta mai clar faptul că marca este o combinație de trei vectori care determină un volum de protecție ca o consecință directă a înregistrării. Este vorba de semn, este vorba de lista de produse și/sau servicii asociată semnului respectiv și, în fine, este vorba de teritoriul pe care există protecția respectivă.
Acești trei vectori semnlistă de produse/servicii - teritoriu, aceste trei dimensiuni dau, prin combinația lor, volumul în care există marca respectivă, volumul în care există dreptul exclusiv de utilizare, totul ca o consecință a înregistrării (Fig. 1). Încă o dată, fără înregistrare nu putem vorbi de marcă. Vorbim doar de un semn utilizat în comerț, semn care nu are nici pe departe puterea unei mărci înregistrate pe un anumit teritoriu.
Considerându-ne mireni în ”religia” mărcilor, să încercăm să descifrăm ”volumul de protecție al mărcii” plecând de la analiza individuală a celor trei vectori amintiți anterior, pornind de la cunoscut către necunoscut, ca să nu pronunțăm sintagma deja rodată, ”de la simplu la complex”.
Plecăm deci de la teritoriu, ca fiind elementul cel mai ușor de înțeles, cel mai clar în contextul actual, chiar dacă granițele statale încep să se estompeze, mai mult sau mai puțin. Încă mai putem vorbi de independență, de suveranitate, de sistem legislativ propriu unui anumit stat și, în consecință, vectorul teritoriu va fi mai ușor de înțeles.
Vom continua cu analiza celui de-al doilea vector, lista de produse și servicii, a cărui claritate depinde de cel interesat în înregistrarea mărcii. Acest vector are o ”trasabilitate” determinată de reglementări internaționale în domeniul clasificării produselor și serviciilor pentru care sunt înregistrate mărcile. Cu excepția unor aspecte ”particulare” vectorul listă de produse/servicii va fi și el relativ ușor de înțeles.  
Nu din considerente de dificultate semnul înregistrat ca marcă a fost lăsat la sfârșit, ci pentru o anumită doză de subiectivism care este prezentă în procesul de evaluare a acestuia. Sigur că există reguli, dar perceția supra semnului este individuală, senzația pe care un anumit semn o generează la nivelul consumatorului depinde de foarte mulți factori și în primul rând de individ. Din aceste considerente vectorul semn va fi analizat ultimul, fiind considerat pilonul principal al succesului unei mărci.
Să mai trecem în revistă, încă o dată, definițiile pe care le-am dat cu privire la marcă.
Este ușor de observat faptul că există o condiție comună, exprimată în toate exemplele date, și anume aceea de distinctivitate, respectiv marca trebuie să fie capabilă să distingă produsele sau serviciile unei întreprinderi de cele ale altei întreprinderi.
Nu este de glumă cu această condiție de distinctivitate. Ea continuă să dea bătaie de cap unor persoane cu pretenții și cu funcții de pe diverse meleaguri, fiind una din condițiile de bază privind admiterea la înregistrare a unei mărci.
Cum ”repetitio mater studiorum est” mai explic încă o dată.
Distinctivitatea unei mărci, asa cum de altfel se precizează și în definițiile reproduse mai înainte, reprezintă capacitatea de a distinge între produse sau servicii, respectiv în a distinge faptul că unele provin de la o întreprindere în timp ce altele provin de la o alta. Este deci clar că distinctivitatea se referă la marca în sine, raportată la produsele și/sau serviciile care sunt oferite sub marca respectivă și nicidecum la comparația mărcii respective cu o alta, sau, mai rău, cu câte mărci identice sau similare sunt anterior înregistrate.
A spune că o marcă este lipsită de distinctivitate pentru că este identică cu o marcă anterior înregistrată este o mare... inadvertență. Și iată consecințele imediate ale respectivei afirmații.
Logica ne conduce la concluzia ca o noțiune trebuie să se conformeze propriei definiții, nu?
În consecință, nu poți să afirmi despre o marcă faptul că este lipsită de distinctivitate, deci nu se poate înregistra, pentru că este identică cu o alta anterioară, deoarece atunci și prima ar fi la fel de lipsită de distinctivitate, identică fiind. Unde este deci eroarea?
Mai folosesc încă o dată un exemplu, clasic de acum, în speranța obținerii înțelegerii acestor aspecte.
Combinația de cuvinte ”pâine caldă” este lipsită de distinctivitate pentru produse de panificație. Evident! Pâine caldă poate face oricine, iar dacă scriu pe ambalaj ”Pâine caldă” atunci chiar nu se mai știe cine a făcut-o. Nu însă același lucru se poate spune despre aceeași combinație de cuvinte în raport cu produsele spirtoase. Iar dacă acest lucru este adevărat o dată, nu se poate ca a doua oară să considerăm ”pâine caldă” ca fiind lipsit de distinctivitate pentru faptul că marca există deja. Ducând la absurd raționamentul, aceasta ar însemna ca niciun cuvânt din dicționar nu ar putea fi folosit la înregistrarea unei mărci, deoarece are un înțeles de sine stătător. Ori, sunt pline bazele de date de mărci cu înregistrări având ca obiect cuvinte uzuale.
Pe de altă parte, să presupunem că avem o marcă înregistrată și constituită dintr-un cuvânt inventat, care nu se regăsește în niciun dicționar ca având vreo legătură cu produsele sau serviciile pentru care a fost înregistrată marca respectivă, deci cu o distinctivitate ridicată. În situația în care este solicitată la înregistrare o marcă identică și pentru aceleași produse și servicii, nu se poate spune, nici măcar în glumă, că aceasta este lipsită de distinctivitate pentru că există o marcă identică anterior înregistrată. Cu alte cuvinte lipsa de distinctivitate nu se măsoară în numărul de mărci identice sau foarte apropiate care operează pe o anumită piață.
În cazul în care pot apărea pe piață două mărci identice sau foarte apropiate, atunci apare riscul de confuzie între producători, ceea ce este cu totul altceva decât lipsa de distinctivitate. Posibila apariție a riscului de confuzie, poate în combinație cu cel de asociere, implică reacțiile unor persoane, proceduri speciale inițiate în fața unor autorități,... dar acestea fac parte dintr-o altă dezbatere.
Și totuși, am arătat că marca, cea înregistrată evident, generează un volum de protecție, de drepturi exclusive, determinat de trei vectori, dar niciunul dintre ei nu este materializarea distinctivității mărcii, deși am bătut puțină monedă pe noțiunea de distinctivitate a mărcii.
Și atunci, dacă distinctivitatea mărcii este așa de importantă, în toată această construcție spațială, cu vectori și volume, unde este distinctivitatea mărcii? Cum să fie ea reprezentată pentru a fi la fel de ușor de înțeles?
Distinctivitatea unei mărci este o noțiune foarte importantă, care merită o atenție deosebită și pe care o va și primi, dar într-un articol viitor. Vă spun doar că, luând în considerare un volum de protecție al unei mărci, generat de vectorii de-acum cunoscuți, distinctivitatea mărcii respective o reprezintă densitatea sau consistența acestui volum. 
Concret, daca marca are o distinctivitate deosebită, este o marcă foarte cunoscută, prezentă pe buzele tuturor, atunci volumul respectiv are consistența granitului. Unii îi spun marcă notorie, alții marcă cu reputație (fig. 2). Dimpotrivă, dacă marca are un caracter slab distinctiv, fiind la limita condiției de a fi înregistrată, atunci volumul protecției mărcii are consistența aburului care se ridică din pământ primăvara (Fig. 3), iar marca este vulnerabilă și necesită un buget important pentru promovare astfel încât ceea ce nu a avut prin naștere să dobândească prin utilizare, respectiv distinctivitate.
Să nu ne abatem însă de la ce am stabilit deja, mai întâi analiza vectorilor mărcii.
Ne vedem deci ”în teritoriu” și vă aștept cu mare interes comentariile pe adresa

Trips - Acordul de la Marrakech privind constituirea Organizatiei Mondiale de Comert - Anexa 1C. Acordul privind aspectele drepturilor de proprietate intelectuala legate de comert incheiat la Marrakech la 15 aprilie 1994, ratificat de România la 22 decembrie 1994 prin Legea nr.133/1994 -
Directiva 2008/95/CE a Parlamentului European și a Consiliului, din 22 octombrie 2008, de apropiere a legislațiilor statelor membre cu privire la mărci (versiune codificată).
Regulamentul (CE) Nr. 207/2009 al Consiliului, din 26 februarie 2009, privind marca comunitară (versiune codificată).
Legea 84/1998 privind marcile si indicatiile geografice, republicată în Monitorul Oficial, Partea I nr. 337 din 8 mai 2014.