A trademark agreement is usually a simple contract by which a party agrees to authorize the use and/or registration of a trademark that overlaps with another party. The parties also state that their brands are not confusing to consumers. Often, this type of agreement is used when a company has received or is anticipating a refusal to register by the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). The case of Apple Corps, the label created by the Beatles, and Apple Computer2 illustrates the difficulties (see WIPO magazine 3/2006). In 1991, the two companies reached an agreement on the coexistence of trademarks. provided that Apple Computer has the exclusive right to use its Apple trademarks “on or in combination with electronic goods, computer software, computer services and data transmission”; Apple Corps would certainly have the exclusive right to use its own Apple trademarks “on or in relation to current or future creative works, whose main content was music and/or musical performances, regardless of the means used to record or communicate these works, tangible or non-tangible.” Although the two companies have similarly confused brands, they have identified an area in which they were different – that is, areas of application – and this has become the basis of their co-existence agreement. The agreement allowed both companies to continue to do business and build on their reputations without violating each other. Brand co-existence describes a situation in which two different companies use a similar or identical brand to market one product or service without necessarily interfering with the activities of the other. This is not unusual. Brands are often used by small businesses in a limited geographic area or with a regional clientele. Almost all French cities with a train station, for example, have their own buffet restaurant at the station. Often, trademarks are made up of the name of the person who started a business, and where that name is common, it is not uncommon to find similar companies under the same name or name.
None of this should give rise to conflicts or disputes as long as the brands concerned continue to fulfil their primary mission of distinguishing the goods or services for which they are used from those of competitors.