Recently, 3 of the major political parties in Nigeria
|Congress for Progressive Change (one of the merging parties)|
|Ballot paper (party logos and acronyms only)|
Even though issues of criteria for political party registration might not
readily fall with the purview of intellectual
property protection, it is interesting (at least for Nigeria) that acronyms are
important for the success of any political party. Only acronyms and party logos
are written on ballot papers. Parties chant their acronyms on the campaign
To the extent then, that acronyms form an important part of a party’s “brand identity”, what should be the criteria for registration? First-come-first-serve? Likelihood of success in elections? National spread?
However, what if the scenario was on a commercial turf? It is not unusual for companies to register their acronyms as trade marks. See Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Asset and Resource Management Limited, etc.
Would acronyms possess the “distinctiveness” quality required for trade mark protection? In the case of The Procter and Gamble Company v. Global Soap and Detergent Industries Limited and the Registrar of Trade Marks (discussed elsewhere on this blog), the Nigerian Court of Appeal seemed to suggest that regular words would be considered distinctive if the proprietor of the mark can show that it was the first to use the mark in relation to the goods in question.
Further, Section 9 of the Trade Marks Act permits the use of the name of a company, individual or firm as a trade mark but requires that such name be represented in a “special” manner. Whether acronyms will qualify as “special” representation, will depend on the goods on which the proposed mark is to be used and perhaps other features such as colour, font and the like.
Acronyms may be too generic (in most cases) to be distinctive as they are, by their very nature, open to conventional use (For instance, both Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Ginika Teka Balls Limited can lay claims to "GTB"). However, after all is said and done, a company wishing to use an acronym as its mark would have to ensure that another party has not registered such acronym as a trade mark and that no prior domain name registration has been obtained with the acronym.
For government agencies that use the same acronym, see Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission, both referred to by their acronyms, “NCC”.
For “distinctiveness” in the Procter and Gamble case, see page 32 here.