Confusing Terms: “Brand,” “Brand Name,” Trademark” and “Tradename”

Many confusing terms in legal Spanish and legal English are simply legal synonyms that are not always clearly distinguishable, often making it necessary to learn how each one is used in a specific context or in set phrases (frases hechas). Some may be interchangeable; others are limited to use in specific contexts. Those highlighted in this blog are ones that I have seen confused in translation or that my students and lawyer clients have found most difficult to distinguish.

“Brand;” “brand name” and “trademark” (spelled “trade mark” in BrE) are sometimes confused because they are most often rendered in Spanish simply as marca. But “brand” is perhaps more a marketing concept than a legal term, while “trademark” generally denotes the legal protection provided certain distinctive signs (signos distintivos) under trademark law (Derecho de marcas; Derecho marcario). Examples of the use of “brand” and “brand name” in the context of marketing might include “brand name watches” (relojes de marca); “brand name clothing” (ropa de marca); “brand name recognition” or “brand awareness” (conocimiento/notoriedad de la marca); and “brand name products” or “name brands” (productos de marca), as opposed to “house brands,” “store brands” or “own brands” (marcas blancas).

Common expressions with “trademark” and “mark” include “trademark application” (solicitud de marca); “trademark registration” (registro de marca); “trademark infringement” (violación del derecho de marca); “word mark” (marca denominativa); “device mark” (marca gráfica); “slogan mark” (marca publicitaria); “well-known mark” (marca notoria); and “renowned mark” (marca renombrada).

In other respects. “tradename” (spelled “trade name” in BrE) is nombre comercial, the name under which a business operates. Thus, for example, the expression “Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba, doing business as Toshiba Corporation” means Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba, que gira bajo el nombre comercial de Toshiba Corporation. In Spain trademarks and tradenames are protected under trademark law and are registered at the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas), while company names (denominaciones sociales) are recorded on the Companies Register (Registro Mercantil).

(For additional trademark vocabulary see the list provided under “Capsule Vocabularies:” https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/03/18/capsule-vocabularies-2/ )

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