I Am a Life Coach. How Can I Protect My Intellectual Property?
As a life coach, you would know that your brand is vital to building your client base. Not only does your brand represent your business, but clients will tend to associate your brand with the quality of your services. For this reason, it is important that you take action to protect your brand from being copied by others. This article outlines the key functions of trade marks and copyright and how both forms of intellectual property can widely benefit your business brand as a life coach.
One of the best ways you can protect your brand is by registering a trade mark. Put simply, a registered trade mark provides its owner with the exclusive right to use, licence and sell their mark, meaning no one can use or misappropriate your trade mark without your permission.
You can register a trade mark with respect to many features of your business brand. This includes your business name and logo and also any packaging and products you might offer as a life coach.
There are many benefits to protecting your brand through trade marks. However, you can find a summary of the three main reasons in the table below.
|1. Trade marks help build your business’ reputation.||A business’ reputation is often closely associated with its name or logo. By protecting your brand image with trade marks, you are free to market your services using the trade mark to help develop your brand image.|
|2. Trade marks protect your brand from being copied by your competitors.||Suppose someone misuses your trade mark without your permission or attempts to register an identical or similar trade mark with IP Australia. In that case, you have the right to pursue legal action and prevent others from doing so.|
|3. Trade marks can help differentiate your life coach services.||Your brand image helps differentiate your services from other services offered by life coaches. By protecting your brand with a trade mark, you can widely use your mark for marketing your services in distinction to your competitors.|
Trade Mark Registration
In Australia, trade marks can be unregistered or registered. An unregistered trade mark is usually identifiable by the ‘™’ symbol. Business owners use an unregistered trade mark to inform potential infringers that their business name or logo serves as a unique identifier of their brand. However, unregistered trade marks are not as comprehensively protected by the law as registered trade marks.
You must apply for a registered trade mark via IP Australia’s online services. You can either apply using a standard form or a TM Headstart application. Using a standard form, you must provide:
- your personal information;
- a description of the feature of your brand that your trade mark will protect, i.e. your business name or logo;
- the type of trade mark you are applying for;
- a trade mark check to ensure that someone else has not already registered your intended trade mark; and
- the class of services that your trade mark will apply to, i.e. class 45 on the Trade Mark Classification Search, which includes life coaching services.
It is important that you closely follow the registration process to avoid further costs for mistakes made in your application. If you choose to apply using a TM Headstart application, you will still need to complete all the formal requirements of a standard application. However, a trade mark expert will provide you with a pre-assessment of your TM Headstart application before you formally submit the application for IP Australia’s review. This way, you can have an expert identity any potential errors in your application and make amendments accordingly.
Beyond your brand, another key component of your business that you should seek to protect is any written materials. As a life coach, you might be updating a blog or providing infographics for clients. It is important that others do not misappropriate any written materials you have authored.
Luckily, under Australian copyright law, written materials are automatically protected by copyright from the point at which they are written and distributed. The duration of copyright protection can vary depending on certain factors, but copyright for written materials generally lasts for 70 years from the first year of publication.
There are many benefits to protecting your written material through copyright. A summary of two main reasons is in the table below.
|1. Copyright prevents others from copying your work without your permission.||As the copyright owner of written materials, you can enforce your rights against anyone who uses your material without your permission. This way, you can ensure that only your business benefits from the resources you produce.|
|2. Copyright provides you with the opportunity to commercialise your written work.||You can also agree to let others use your written materials at a negotiated fee. Licencing your written materials is another way your business can generate revenue.|
Since copyright automatically protects written materials once they have been expressed, there is no need to register for copyright. Instead, you can protect your written materials by including a copyright notice on your work.
Copyright notice will typically include the ‘©’ symbol, followed by the author’s name and the date on which the author created the copyrighted material.
In the instance where someone infringes your copyright by misusing your materials without your permission, you can take further action by issuing the infringer with a copyright infringement notice. However, copyright infringement will not always arise when someone has used your materials. This is because there are a number of fair dealing exceptions to using copyrighted works. For this reason, you should seek out legal advice to ensure that copyright infringement has been made out.
As a life coach, you can protect the features of your brand, such as your business name and logo, with a registered trade mark. A registered trade mark will provide you with the exclusive right to:
- license; and
- sell your trade mark.
This means that you can build your business’ reputation without fear of having no legal remedies if someone were to copy your brand. On the other hand, copyright protection will automatically apply to any written materials you distribute in the course of your business. You can prevent others from misusing your copyrighted materials by using a copyright notice. If you need help applying for a trade mark in Australia, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist. Call us on 1300 657 423 or complete the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Trade mark infringement occurs when someone uses a similar or identical trade mark to your own in relation to the same goods or services which your trade mark protects. For example, a fast food chain named ‘MacDonalds’ that sells burgers would likely be infringing on trade marks owned by McDonald’s Asia Pacific.
The pre-assessment service IP Australia provides under a TM Headstart application costs $200 per class of goods and services you are applying for. A standard application will cost $250 per class of goods and services you are applying for. You can find a comprehensive breakdown of IP Australia’s costs here.