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The trademark is a sign that allows the products or services, made or distributed by a company, to be easily distinguished from those of other companies. According to art. 7 of the Industrial Property Code (IPC), all graphically representable signs may be subject to registration as a company trademark: words (including personal names), designs, letters, numbers, sounds, the shape of a product or of its package, combinations or chromatic tones. So, a sound can be registered as trademark, reporting the musical notes composing it onto a staff.

The product shape or that of its package can be a valid trademark, as long as the sign in question:

  • has its own independent distinctive ability to the eyes of the average consumer, such that the mere sight of that specific shape is able to immediately create an ideal link between product/service, both with the trademark and with the manufacturer
  • is not only made up of the shape set by the nature of the product (as this is without distinctive character), by the shape of the product necessary for obtaining a technical result (only protectable by a patent or by a utility model) or by the shape giving a substantial value to the product (art. 9 IPC).

Even the combinations and chromatic tones can constitute a valid trademark; obviously excluding pure colours, since their use cannot be exclusively reserved to one owner.
In addition, although art. 7 IPC does not expressly mention them, advertising slogans are part of signs constituting a valid trademark as long as they have a distinctive character, namely that it is a sign that can be perceived by consumers as a tool for identifying the commercial origin of the products or services in question, in this way allowing them to be distinguished from those of competitors (e.g. the advertising slogan of a famous furniture chain Mondo Convenienza "Our strength is the price" was filed as company trademark, also as a music jingle).
Vice-versa, the registration of olfactory trademarks cannot be activated - not being graphically representable - as, to date, there is no international classification of odours to allow a precise and unambiguous indication.

The company trademark - the registration of which is the responsibility of DGLC-UIBM in the Ministry of Economic Development - can be:

  • individual: if belonging to a single company or natural person (which is the most common case)
  • collective: when it guarantees the origin, the nature or the quality of certain products or services; normally required by a "proposing subject" that can be a natural or legal person (associations, cooperatives or consortia), to then be granted for use to the single companies committed to respecting the user regulation; notwithstanding art. 13, comma 1 of IPC, a collective trademark may consist of signs or indications that on the market may be used to designate the geographic origin (and, therefore, the quality deriving from the specific area of construction) of the products/services. Moreover, the IPTO can refuse registration when the requested trademarks may create situations of unjustified privilege or be detrimental to the development of other, similar initiatives in the region. The registration of the collective trademark constituted by a geographical name does not authorise the owner to prohibit the use on the market of the name itself by third parties, as long as this complies with the principles of professional correctness and limited to the function of indicating the origin.

Based on the elements composing it, three categories of trademark can be identified:

  • the name trademark which only consists of words
  • the figurative trademark which consists of a figure or a reproduction of real or fantasy objects
  • the mixed or complex trademark, the effect of the combination of words and figures.

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