Malta Trademark Law Basics

March 25 10:18 2022 by The Editor Print This Article

  • In this series of intellectual property publications, we will explore the basics of the law that covers trademarks, patents, designs and copyright, with special focus on the formal steps to protect one's creations and what brand owners and inventors should look out for. 

In this first article we will tackle the basics of trademark law in Malta. 

What is a Malta Trademark?

A Malta trademark is identified as a sign which is capable of distinguishing goods and/or services of one undertaking from those of another.  A trademark may consist of words, including also personal names, or designs, letters, numerals, colours, the shape of goods or of their packaging or sounds. Three dimensional (3D) marks are also capable of being registered as a trademark.

How do you protect a Malta Trademark?

A trademark can be registered and acquire protection in Malta by filing an application at the Industrial Property Registrations Directorate within the Commerce Department. 

Advantages of Registering a Malta Trademark

The proprietor of a registered trademark has exclusive rights in the trademark.  Such rights are infringed by such use of the trademark in Malta without the consent of the proprietor.

When a proprietor registers his trademark, he acquires a property right, benefiting from specific remedies. These remedies include nationwide priority over all others who might seek to adopt the registered mark; significantly reducing the costs of enforcing trademark rights; and enhanced protection against counterfeiters, cyber-squatters, and importers of infringing product.

What are the Types of Malta Trademarks?

The following are the types of Malta trademarks that can be registered: 

  • Word Marks, consisting of words, letters, numbers, and/or other standard typed characters.
  • Figurative Marks, represented by non-standard characters or images and graphic features which do not include any text.
  • Figurative with Words Marks, containing text whilst also containing pictures, graphics or images with words or letters.
  • 3D Marks, which is a three-dimensional mark represented using a three-dimensional shape, including containers or product packaging.
  • Pattern Marks, consisting exclusively of a set of elements which are repeated regularly.
  • Sound Mark, consisting exclusively of a sound or of a combination of sounds.

A trademark can also be protected as a collective or certification mark. 

Collective trademarks

Collective marks distinguish the goods or services of members of an association from those of others. Collective trademarks can be used by different individuals, rather than just one person, provided that such person is a member of the association itself, in whose name the mark is registered. 

Certification Trademarks

Certification marks are usually linked to defined standards and are granted for compliance with such standards. As such, they can be used by anyone who can certify that their products meet such required standards.

What is the Malta Trademark Application Process? 

In general, the application for a trademark includes the following 

  • request for trademark registration
  • details of the applicant and his legal representative
  • detailed description of the mark must be given
  • list of the goods or services for which the trademark is to be registered under one or more classes of the Nice Classification
  • a declaration claiming priority stating the date on which and the country in or for which the previous application was filed, if priority is applicable

The language in a trademark application can be either Maltese or English language.

Thereafter, after submission, the Trademark Office shall carry out a search in the national trademark database for each application received to identify identical or similar registrations or applications.

Upon submission of the application for trademark registration, the prescribed fee in line with the applicable schedule of fees would need to be settled.

Upon fulfilment of all requirements, the Comptroller shall then publish the registration of the trademark on the official online journal. 

What are Absolute Grounds for Refusal?

Once the formalities are fulfilled the application is then checked for substantive requirements.  A sign, which does not fall within the definition of trademarks, shall not be registered as a trademark.

When would a Trademark be Refused?

The following are absolute grounds for which a trademark would be refused:

  • lacks distinctive character
  • is made up entirely of signs or indications which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind,  quality, intended purpose, value, geographical origin, the time of production of goods or of rendering of services, or other characteristics of goods or services
  • consists entirely of signs or indications which have become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and established practices of the trade.

Notwithstanding these last three exceptions, the registration of a trademark is not to be refused, if it can be shown that before the date of application for registration, the trademark has acquired a distinctive character because of the use made of it in Malta.

In addition, a trademark shall not be registered if it consists exclusively of:

  • the shape which results from the nature of the goods themselves; the shape of goods; and
  • the shape which gives substantial value to the goods.

Finally, a trademark shall not be registered if:

  • it is contrary to public policy or morality;
  • it is of such a nature as to deceive the public as to the nature, quality or geographical origin of the goods or services;
  • its use is prohibited in Malta by any enactment or rule of law;
  • it consists of/or contains of any signs, arms, armorial bearings on flags as listed in Article 5 of the law; and
  • it is made in bad faith.

What are Relative Grounds for Refusal?

Registration of a trademark is also refused if:

  • it is identical with or similar to an earlier trademark and the goods or services for which the trademark is applied for are identical with or similar to the goods or services for which the earlier trademark is protected;
  • it is identical with or similar to an earlier trademark, and although the goods or services are not similar to those in the earlier trademark, yet the registration would take unfair advantage of the distinctive character or repute of the earlier mark;
  • its use in Malta is liable to be prevented by virtue of any rule of law protecting an unregistered trademark or other sign used in the course of trade or by virtue of an earlier right.

An application for a trademark shall not be refused where the proprietor of the earlier mark or right consents to the registration of the application.

Should a business file a trademark in the EU?

If an entity does business in more than one EU country, a European Union Trademark (EUTM) would be a very good option to opt form The EUTM offers a rightholder protection throughout the EU. EU trademarks are registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in Spain. An EU trademark gives the owner protection for all EU Member States in one single registration. The EUTM is an all-or-nothing arrangement. An entity either obtains protection over all Member States or else no registration is given at all.

What are the Benefits of Registering a European Union Trademark? 

Benefits of registering a European Union Trademark include:

  • A single EUTM registration process, filed online, in one language
  • A Trademark grants exclusive protection that is valid in all EU Member States
  • A single registration in all current and future Member States of the EU Union at a reasonable cost
  • Enforcement your trademark in a market of almost 500 million consumers.

This information was provided by Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, a Malta Intellectual Property Law Firm and IP agents. For more information contact Dr Maria Chetcuti Cauchi on