Worldwide trademark watching is systematic monitoring for potential infringements in over 200 jurisdictions, meaning many new applications are published in a language other than English. And with would-be infringers trying to apply for the most outrageous pinches of famous marks and owners of big brands targeting global protection, linguistic expertise is incredibly relevant. A trademark is considered equivalent if the meaning is the same, no matter the language.
When talking about monitoring trademarks in a foreign language and/or script, there are three methods to establish its meaning: translation, transliteration and phonetic rendering. Translation is an act of expressing meaning in another language and transliteration is the transcription of a word into the corresponding letters of another alphabet or writing system.
Here is how it works: the word “πορτοκάλι” in the Greek alphabet is transliterated as “portokáli” and translated as “orange”. And if someone were to apply for this mark to cover communication services, I am sure we can all think of a famous brand who would find it relevant. The words „блу мун“ in Serbian are the transliteration of the English words “blue moon” in Cyrillic and if applied for alcoholic beverages, the owner of the genuine brand would be happy to learn about it.
Phonetic rendering is slightly more complicated; it is the indication of the pronunciation of words written in foreign scripts. Often there is no obvious connection between the characters and the sounds indicated and there is regularly more than one possibility of pronunciation of the same characters.
My favourite example is the following mark from Chinese. The following four characters:
are pronounced as ZHAN-MU-SI-BANG. The dot also indicates a separation in meaning between the first three characters and the fourth. Can anyone make it out? The famous spy on Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Yes – that’s how James Bond looks and sounds in Chinese characters!
In order to protect their globally recognised brands, big companies are interested in all languages and scripts in the world. And with the increasing number in trademark applications as well as frequent use of local vernaculars and jargons, trademark monitoring has become a challenging and fascinating job.
About The Author
Milka Sculac Sennett has worked in trademarks for 16 years, building expertise with companies like Principium Strategies and Corsearch. Before joining the trademark industry in London, Milka worked as a journalist in Croatia, feeding her love of writing. Her language abilities include native level Croatian/Serbian, Italian and English, but can also translate from Slovene, Macedonian/Bulgarian, Spanish and French, and Milka’s linguistic expertise serves her well as a Corsearch Trademark Analyst.
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