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While the specifics may vary from country to country, most Trade mark offices will publish a pending Trade mark application to give third parties an opportunity, over a set time period, in which to oppose the trade mark application, before the application matures to registration, and before all the rights that arise from registration are engaged.

In the UK, there is a two month period in which third parties may oppose registration of a Trade mark application. This period may be extended to three months.

The most common reasons for someone wanting to oppose the registration of a trade mark are:

(a) they think the trade mark is one which is not unique (for example that it is generic, misleading or descriptive, etc. These are known also as absolute grounds) to the applicant and should be free for other traders to use; or

(b) they own an earlier trade mark - which does not have to be registered itself - which is the same as, or similar to, the pending trade mark (known as relative grounds).

(c) they believe that the mark was registered in bad faith.

Generally, the opposer must have standing (a legitimate interest that would be threatened by registration of the mark) to oppose.

Opposition proceedings can result in one of three ways:

1. the opposition could fail and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) will register the trade mark;
2. the opposition succeeds and the UKIPO will refuse to register the trade mark; or
3. the opposition partly succeeds, and the applicant is obliged to limit their list of goods or services to those which have not been objected to.

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