Understanding collaborative trade marks: the pros and cons, and what to be aware of

Article  \  28 May 2024

In an increasingly interconnected and competitive marketplace, businesses are continually seeking innovative ways to distinguish their products and services. One such strategy involves the use of collaborative or combined trade marks. But before going down this path, it's crucial for businesses to understand the related nuances, benefits, drawbacks, and key considerations.

So what are collaborative trade marks?

Collaborative trade marks (also referred to as combined trade marks) arise when two or more entities join forces to create a single trade mark. This could involve a combination of their existing trade marks, or the creation of an entirely new mark that represents their partnership.

Such trade marks are particularly prevalent in co-branding efforts, strategic alliances, and joint ventures where the collaborative effort is showcased through a unified brand identity.

While collaborative trade marks offer many benefits, they also have potential pitfalls.

The pros

  1. Enhanced market presence: By merging the strengths of two or more brands, businesses can significantly enhance their market presence and appeal to a broader audience. This synergy can lead to increased brand recognition and customer loyalty.

  2. Resource sharing: Collaborative trade marks often come with shared resources, including marketing budgets, distribution networks, and technological expertise. This pooling of resources can result in cost savings and operational efficiencies.

  3. Innovative product offerings: When businesses combine their expertise, they can create innovative products or services that might not have been possible independently. This can give them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

  4. Strengthened brand image: Aligning with another reputable brand can enhance the perceived value and trustworthiness of your own brand. This can be particularly beneficial when entering new markets or segments.

The cons

  1. Complexity in management: Managing a collaborative trade mark can be complex, particularly when it comes to decision-making, resource allocation, and conflict resolution. The interests of all parties must be carefully balanced and documented to ensure the partnership remains productive.

  2. Potential for brand dilution: If the collaborating brands have significantly different market positions or reputations, there is a risk of brand dilution and potential loss of customers. The collaborative trade mark might not resonate equally with all customer segments. Additionally, an imbalance can occur if one party has a more established reputation or stronger brand equity than the other, potentially leading to perceived inequities in the collaboration.

  3. Legal and IP issues: Navigating the legal landscape of collaborative trade marks can be challenging. Issues such as ownership rights, licensing agreements, and the handling of potential infringements need to be meticulously addressed.

  4. Dissolution risks: If the collaboration ends, the fate of the collaborative trade mark can become contentious. Clear agreements must be in place from the outset to handle the dissolution of the partnership and the future use of the trade mark.

Key considerations before opting for collaborative trade marks

  1. Clear agreement and documentation: It is essential to have a comprehensive agreement outlining the roles, responsibilities, and rights of each party. This includes provisions for the management, use, and potential dissolution of the collaborative trade mark.

  2. Compatibility and brand alignment: Ensure that the collaborating brands are compatible and that their collaborative identity will resonate well in the market. A thorough market analysis can help assess this alignment.

  3. Legal due diligence: Conduct extensive legal due diligence to identify and mitigate any potential intellectual property conflicts or infringement risks. This includes checking the availability and registrability of the collaborative trade mark.

  4. Registration of a collaborative mark: If each business has separate trade mark registrations, consider whether registering the collaborative mark is necessary and the implications of not doing so. For example, if the collaborative mark is used but not registered, the goods and services covered by each trade mark must align, otherwise this could result in infringement or misuse claims.

  5. Exit strategy: Have a clear exit strategy in place. This should detail the process for unwinding the collaborative trade mark arrangement and addressing any residual brand equity or customer perceptions. Address critical questions including: 

    • What happens to the trade mark after the collaboration ends?

    • Can both parties continue to use the trade mark, or are there restrictions?

    • Is there a mechanism for one party to buy out the other’s interest in the trade mark?

  6. Ongoing management: Establish a robust governance framework to manage the collaborative trade mark. This includes regular reviews, performance assessments, and mechanisms for addressing any disputes that may arise.

  7. International considerations: If the collaborative mark is to be used in multiple countries, businesses must consider international branding and country-specific trade mark regulations. Each jurisdiction may have different requirements and processes for trade mark registration and enforcement.


Collaborative trade marks can offer significant advantages in terms of market presence, resource efficiency, and innovation. However, they also come with their share of complexities and risks.

Businesses considering this path must engage in thorough planning, clear agreement structuring, and diligent legal oversight to ensure the partnership is mutually beneficial and sustainable.

As always, seeking expert legal advice can help navigate the intricacies of collaborative trade marks and safeguard your brand's interests. For further guidance or assistance on collaborative trade marks, feel free to contact our team of experienced trade mark attorneys at AJ Park.