When defining trademarks in Turkish Law, it is stated that
“Trademarks may consist of any signs like words, including personal names, figures, colors, letters, numbers, sounds and the shape of goods or their packaging, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings and being represented on the register in a manner to determine the clear and precise subject matter of the protection afforded to its proprietor.”
Simply, a Trademark registration grants the registrant a monopoly right for the registered goods and services.
The assessment of 2021, based on data from the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, found that the Turkish Lira has depreciated by 75 percent against the dollar in just 1 year.
These economic conditions, which have had a drastic impact on income levels, have shifted the weight of Turkey’s global trade from legitimate products to counterfeit products. In line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)’s latest “Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” report dated 2021, it has been observed that the trade in counterfeit products has increased significantly in Turkey.
For this reason, a high number of trademark registration applications are filed every year in Turkey. Some of these registration applications are filed by persons who sell illegal products and who are not the true rightful owners.
This is because the applicant does not have to prove that they are the true rightful owner of the trademark at the application stage.
A trademark registration in Turkey creates a presumption that the owner of a registered trademark that appears in the registry is the true rightful owner. In the case of unregistered trademark use, the risk of losing the market share and customer network obtained through the use of the trademark, which may arise if the trademark is registered in the name of another person, can be eliminated by registering the trademark.
Another important benefit is that the registered trademark prevents third parties from registering identical or indistinguishably similar trademarks for identical or identical type of goods/services without the need for any action in Turkey.
The Industrial Property Code, which regulates trademarks, patents, utility models, designs, geographical sings and traditional product names in Turkey, states that
“Signs which are identical to or indistinguishably similar to a trademark, which has been registered or which has been applied for registration, relating to identical goods and services or to goods and services of the identical type shall not be registered.”
Therefore, subsequent applications that are identical or indistinguishably similar to a previously registered trademark are rejected by the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office where the registration procedures are carried out.
It also provides the owner of the trademark registration with the right to prevent, upon opposition, the registration of trademarks similar to their trademark for goods/services similar to the registered goods/services.
The Industrial Property Code states that
“An application for trademark registration shall be refused upon opposition if there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public, including the likelihood of association with the earlier trademark, due to identity with, or similarity to, the earlier trademark and the identity or similarity of the goods or services covered.”
Accordingly, the previous registrant may prevent the registration of trademarks that may be confusing due to the similarity to their own trademark.
Trademark protection provides the registrant with much more effective protection compared to the unfair competition (unregistered trademarks are protected under the unfair competition provisions of the Turkish Commercial Code).
The trademark owner has the right to prevent any unauthorized use of their registered trademark for the goods and services covered by the registration.
To ensure this, the Industrial Property Code provides for a range of effective sanctions, including fines and imprisonment. This prevents damage to investments in the trademark if a competing company uses the identical or similar trademark for the identical or similar products/services.
The registered trademark can also provide additional income to the trademark owner by being subject to transactions such as assignment and licensing, and if desired, it allows you to buy the domain name of your trademark with com.tr extension.
In Turkish trademark law, the formal and material condition of trademark protection is registration, and protection starts with registration as a rule. Trademark protection means that the trademark or an element thereof cannot be used or disposed of by others without the permission of the owner, and any contrary action is deemed to be an infringement of the trademark. This right authorizes the registered trademark owner to prevent the use of their trademark without their permission.
For this reason, we believe that domestic and foreign entrepreneurs should register their trademarks in order not to lose their trademark rights and prestige in trade, in case there is a possibility of utilization in Turkey, even if they do not have utilization in Turkey yet.
In such a country where the trade of counterfeit products is quite intense, it will be to the benefit of the trademark owners to make use of all kinds of legal protection of these commercial values created as a result of intense labor and efforts, and at the same time, it will be much easier to prove the true rightful ownership in case of a possible trademark infringement.