Trademark Registration in Indonesia: Language Considerations and Translation Practices

With the growing market share, many foreign brands are interested in registering their trademarks in Indonesia. One type of trademark that can be registered is a word mark. A trademark can be registered as long as it is not descriptive (for example, ” kursi kualitas top diproduksi oleh….” in the trade of chairs (English translation: top-quality chairs are produced by…) and is capable of distinguishing one undertaking from another undertaking. 


The requirement for the Indonesian language applies if the applicant is Indonesian

Speaking of trademarks, for Indonesian citizens, Article 35 (1) of Presidential Regulation Number 63 of 2019 stipulates that “the Indonesian language must be used in the trademark names consisting of words or combinations of words owned by Indonesian citizens or Indonesian legal entities” – with several exceptions and notes outlined in paragraphs 2-5 of the same article.1 That means, in essence, Indonesian citizens who wish to register trademarks in Indonesia (that are not foreign licenses) must register them using the Indonesian language. 

Language requirement for foreign applicants

On the contrary, foreign nationals are not required to use the Indonesian language for their trademarks. They receive the same level of protection as Indonesian citizens for their trademarks in Indonesia. They can register trademarks in a foreign language, but they must provide a translation. This requirement is specified in Article 25 paragraph (2) letter e of Indonesian Trademark Law Number 20 of 2016. It states that trademarks in foreign languages or non-Latin alphabets must be translated into Indonesian, the Latin alphabet, and common Indonesian numbers, along with their pronunciation in Latin script. This translation can be provided when submitting the trademark application (in a translation column) to convey the intended meaning of the word trademark.

Despite the availability of a translation column in trademark filings, questions arise: Is it necessary to also register the trademark in its Indonesian version to prevent usage by third parties? Furthermore, does the translation of a trademark itself receive protection in Indonesia?


Indonesian translation is required for foreign language trademarks

First, In Indonesia, it is not obligatory to register your trademark in its Indonesian translation, especially if it is originally in a foreign language. However, from the writer’s perspective, if one’s mark(s) lacks an existing name in the local language, there is a high likelihood that one will be adopted by local consumers either through translation or transliteration. Therefore, registering the name in the local alphabet you choose can help alleviate this issue. For clarification, Indonesia employs the Roman alphabet, implying that the registration of a trademark in a foreign language may not necessitate translation into alternative alphabets, such as Chinese characters. Conversely, if a trademark is rooted in foreign characters featuring a different alphabet, the registration process would entail transcribing the trademark into the Roman alphabet.

Second, in actuality, Indonesian trademark law does not explicitly regulate the protection of the translation of a trademark, the mere subject of the translation of a trademark is under Article 15 letter e and Article 25 letter e of Indonesian Trademarks Law. Therefore, in the humble opinion of the author, the answer is no.

To understand the explanation above, for instance, if the trademark “ayçiçeği” in Turkish or “solsikke” in Danish, both translated as “bunga matahari” in Indonesian, is registered in Indonesia’s trademark database, there’s a possibility they could both be registered as “ayçiçeği” and “solsikke,” alongside “bunga matahari,” in Indonesia; since Turkish and Danish are not commonly used or understood languages among Indonesian consumers, perhaps only by a small fraction. Instead of comparing the risk of confusion between “ayçiçeği” and “sunflower” or “bunga matahari,” the examination would focus on the pronunciation of “ayçiçeği,” where certain letters are not available in Indonesian. For instance, Indonesians might read it as “aycicegi” with Indonesian pronunciation, reading each letter individually. This case might not apply to the English word trademark. 

For example, if there is already an existing trademark of “bunga matahari” and someone opts for registration for “sunflower” (in English), the registrability is unlikely (unless both parties agree to the coexistence of the trademarks). This is because, despite English not being recognized as an official language in Indonesia, it is widely understood and utilized within certain segments of the Indonesian populace. Consequently, a portion of the Indonesian community can readily comprehend the meanings conveyed by English trademarks as if they were expressed in Bahasa Indonesia. Hence, with the English translation to Indonesian, “bunga matahari” may no longer be usable. This is because English is widely spoken in Indonesia, particularly in modern times.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the process of trademark registration in Indonesia entails various considerations and regulations, particularly regarding language usage and translation. Indonesian citizens are required to register trademarks in the Indonesian language, with exceptions outlined in the law. Conversely, foreign nationals enjoy flexibility in using their native language for trademark registration, provided they include translations as mandated by Indonesian Trademark Law. Despite the availability of translation columns, the necessity of registering trademarks in their Indonesian versions remains a subject of debate. In this case, the author believes that for specific languages not widely known in Indonesia, it is better to also register the mark in Indonesian to prevent unintended third-party usage with the same purpose and market. There is no specific regulation about the protection of trademark translation or the requirement to register translations of trademarks derived from foreign languages. However, to exclusively protect a trademark and avoid confusion, registering a trademark in a foreign language not widely known in Indonesia but with an Indonesian translation would be appropriate to prevent misuse. Conducting a thorough trademark availability search beforehand is essential to ensure that the trademark or its translation is not already registered in Indonesia.


1. See Article 35 of Presidential Regulation Number 63 of 2019: 

  1. The Indonesian language must be used in trademark names consisting of words or combinations of words owned by Indonesian citizens or Indonesian legal entities. 
  2. The use of the Indonesian language in trademark names as referred to in paragraph (1) is exempted for trademarks that are foreign licenses. 
  3. In cases where the trademark as referred to in paragraph (1) has historical, cultural, customary, and/or religious value, the trademark name may use Regional Languages or Foreign Languages. 
  4. The use of Regional Languages or Foreign Languages as referred to in paragraph (3) is written using the Latin script. 
  5. The inclusion of the Indonesian language in trademarks as referred to in paragraph (1) shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations.

Share:

Author:

Fitri Astari Asril
Fitri Astari Asril
Associate

More Posts