Everything you need to know about business trademarks (and how to get one)

July 2, 2024
3
minutes to read
by
Jelina Rosin
Table of Contents

Your brand's unique identity, etched in the minds of your customers. A trademark is that etching tool, safeguarding your brand from copycats and building unwavering trust.

Picture your favorite brands. What comes to mind?

Their iconic logos, catchy slogans, or their distinct packaging?

These elements form their unique identity – their trademark. But a trademark isn't just about aesthetics; it's a powerful legal intangible asset that safeguards your brand from imitators and helps you build customer trust and loyalty.

Curious about how to create this identity and why your small business needs it? This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of trademarks, from choosing the right one to registering it with the authorities.

Ready to get started? Learn how to choose the perfect name for your business in our in-depth guide: https://www.thriday.com.au/blog-posts/how-to-come-up-with-a-business-name

Understanding trademarks

A trademark helps protect a business' brand by providing exclusive rights to use specific symbols, words, or phrases. It ensures that a company's unique identity is legally protected from competitors.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property (IP) that identifies and distinguishes the products or services of one business from another. It can be a word, phrase, logo, symbol, image, shape, or even a scent. Trademarks provide businesses with protection and exclusive rights to use these elements, helping to prevent others from using similar marks that can confuse consumers. In Australia, registering a trademark offers stronger legal rights than unregistered trademarks.

Trademark formats

There are several formats a trademark can take. Common formats include:

Word marks: These can be a single word or a combination of words, such as a business name.

Logos and symbols: Unique images or designs that represent a brand.

Phases and slogans: Memorable catchphrases associated with a brand's products or services.

Shapes and packaging: Distinctive shapes or packaging that make products recognisable.

Sounds and scents: Less common but can include unique sounds or smells integral to a brand.

Each of these formats must meet specific criteria for registration to ensure they are distinctive and not misleading.

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Limitations of a trademark

While trademarks provide significant protection, they do have limitations. A registered trademark is restricted to the categories of goods and services listed in the application. This means a trademark for a clothing brand does not prevent others from using a similar mark in unrelated industries like electronics. Additionally, trademarks must be actively used and defended. Failure to do so can result in the loss of exclusive rights. It's also important to note that trademarks do not cover generic or descriptive terms that describe the product's characteristics. These limitations ensure trademarks remain fair and do not grant overly broad monopolies on common words or symbols.

How do I register a trademark for my business?

Trademark registration is crucial for protecting a business name and ensuring brand uniqueness. This process involves specific steps, including choosing a trademark, checking its availability, and following up on the application status.

  1. Choose a trademark for your business.
    Choosing a trademark for a business requires careful thought. The trademark should be unique and easily distinguishable. It can be a business name, logo, or slogan. Selecting something that accurately represents the company's goods and services is essential. Avoid using generic terms or descriptions that could be easily confused with existing trademarks.
  1. Search if the trademark is already used.
    Before applying, it's important to check if the desired trademark is already taken. Conduct a comprehensive search using the Australian Trade Mark Search. This search helps identify any existing trademarks that are the same or deceptively similar to the proposed one. This step can prevent future legal disputes and ensure the trademark is available.
  1. Prepare a trademark application.
    Preparing the trademark application involves gathering the necessary information and details. You must specify the trade mark classes representing the goods and services offered. Each class might require a separate application fee. Accurate detailing in the application increases the chances of successful registration. It is also wise to consult IP Australia's guidelines on how to fill out the application properly.
  1. Time for filing.
    Applying is a critical step. This can be done online through IP Australia's online services. Ensure all details are accurate and complete. The cost for filing varies; using the picklist of goods and services can lower fees. Submission completes the initial phase of the trademark registration process.
  1. Follow up on your application.
    After filing, follow-up on the application is necessary. IP Australia examines the application, a process that may take several months. Regularly check for updates through IP Australia's online services. Respond promptly to any requests for additional information or corrections. Timely follow-up helps keep the process moving smoothly and avoids delays.
  1. Maintain your approved trademark.
    Once approved, maintaining the trademark is essential. Registration is valid for a specific period and must be renewed regularly. Update any changes in ownership, address, or details with IP Australia. Monitor for any infringements regularly to protect the brand. Proper maintenance ensures ongoing protection of the business's unique brand identity.

What does a trademark do for your business?

A trademark helps businesses protect their unique products and services. It grants an exclusive right to use a specific brand, logo, or name, preventing others from using similar marks. This protection is crucial in highly competitive markets.

Value and trust

A registered trademark can enhance a company's value. Customers are more likely to trust and buy from a brand with a recognised trademark. Trust translates into loyalty and repeat business.

Market position

With a trademark, a business can solidify its position in the market. It creates a clear identity, distinguishing the brand from competitors. This uniqueness can lead to expanded market reach and customer base.

Legal protection

A trademark provides legal protection against infringement. It gives the owner the right to take legal action if others use their mark without permission. This can include stopping unauthorised use or filing for oppositions against new trademarks that may cause confusion.

Selling and expansion

Trademarks can be valuable assets when selling a business or expanding into new markets. They can add to the company's overall value and make it more attractive to investors and buyers.

Longevity

Once registered, a trademark can last indefinitely, provided it is renewed regularly. This long-term protection helps in maintaining continuous brand recognition and customer trust.

For more detailed information, you can visit business.gov.au.

Navigating trademark costs and ownership

Registering a trade mark involves various costs and fees. A standard application with IP Australia starts at AU$250. Using the picklist, which is a searchable list of over 60,000 goods and services, can lower your fees.

Trademark renewal also comes with costs. If done online, the fee for a single class renewal is typically AU$400. Late renewals have additional fees, increasing by AU$100 for each month after the expiry date.

Legal considerations and protection

Thriday customer

When registering a trademark, it's important to understand the legal considerations and the necessary steps for protection. Key aspects involve consulting a legal expert and registering and maintaining your intellectual property rights.

Do I need a lawyer to register a trademark?

Registering a trademark can be done without a lawyer, but having a legal expert can be very beneficial. An attorney can help navigate the complexities of the Trade Marks Act 1995 and ensure all legal requirements are met.

A lawyer will assist in conducting a thorough trademark search to avoid infringement on existing marks. They can also handle the application process with IP Australia, ensuring it is correctly filled out and submitted. Legal representation becomes crucial if your application faces opposition or requires amendments.

Having a lawyer increases the chances of successful registration and guides using your trademark correctly. This decreases the risk of trade mark infringement and ensures your business is well-protected.

Frequently asked questions

This section answers common questions about trademarks for businesses. It covers trademark searches, registration processes, legal benefits, and differences between trademarks and copyrights.

How can I conduct a trademark search for a business name in Australia?

To conduct a trademark search in Australia, you can use the IP Australia website. This platform allows you to check if your business name is already registered.

What is the process for registering a trademark for a business name in Australia?

Registering a trademark involves several steps:

  1. Conduct a trademark search.
  2. Submit an application through the IP Australia website.
  3. Your application will be examined, and your trademark will be registered if successful.

What are the legal benefits of trademarking a business logo?

Trademarking a business logo offers legal protection against infringement. It ensures that only the trademark owner can use the logo for commercial purposes. This can protect your brand identity and reputation.

Can you outline the differences between a trademark and a copyright for businesses?

Trademarks identify goods or services and protect brand identity. Copyright protects original works like literature, music, and art. While trademarks require registration, copyright is automatically granted upon creation of the work.

What are the steps to trademark a name in Australia?

To trademark a name in Australia, conduct a trademark search on the IP Australia website. Then, file an online application. After submission, your application will be reviewed. If no objections arise, your trademark will be registered.

For how many years is a trademark valid in Australia?

In Australia, a trademark is valid for ten years. You can renew the trademark indefinitely every ten years, provided you pay the renewal fees on time.

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