When Is the Best Time to Register a Trade Mark for Your Brand?
One of the most common questions we receive from business owners is ‘when is the best time to trade mark my brand?’. While the answer varies depending on each individual business, you should generally register a trade mark for your brand earlier in your business’ operation rather than later. This article explains:
- what trade marks can protect; and
- the advantages of registering a trade mark for your brand from the outset of your business’ development.
What Can Trade Marks Protect?
A registered trade mark protects the features of your business’ brand that distinguish your goods or services from competitors in the market. Some examples of what a trade mark can protect include a:
- logo; or
- catchphrase or slogan.
Owners of a registered trade mark have the exclusive right to use, license and sell their trade mark in connection with particular goods or services. This means that if where someone uses a similar or identical mark in connection with similar goods or services, you can prevent them from doing so by enforcing your intellectual property rights. For example, a burger bar named ‘MackDonalds’ would likely be committing trade mark infringement against the rights held in the trade mark ‘McDonalds ®’.
You should note that the process of registering your business name with ASIC is a legal requirement that is separate from the option of registering a trade mark for your business name with IP Australia. Whilst registering your business name is essential for operating your business, it does not give you the exclusive right to use your business name when selling products or services. Instead, only a registered trade mark can give you this exclusive right.
Advantages of Registering a Trade Mark for Your Brand Early
There are many advantages to registering a trade mark for your brand early in your business’ operation. You can find these advantages outlined below.
1. Ensure Your Branding Is Eligible for a Trade Mark
You should think about applying for a trade mark during the beginning stages of coming up with your business brand. This is because you might decide upon a unique name to call your business or a unique logo to represent your business, only to find out later that somebody else has registered it as a trade mark. In addition, it is common to find business names that have not been registered with ASIC but have been registered as a trade mark with IP Australia. For this reason, you should consider trade mark registration as early as when you are brainstorming ideas for your business. This will help ensure that your proposed trade mark is available for registration.
You can ensure that your business name or logo is available by conducting a trade mark search. Conducting a trade mark search is as simple as entering keywords into the Australian Trade Mark Search and scanning for any similar or identical marks that somebody has already registered.
2. Develop Your Brand Identity
Since the market has many various goods and services, your business must stand out from its competitors, especially in its early stage of operation. By developing a distinctive brand identity in the eyes of consumers, you further your chances of achieving a competitive advantage in the market. Trade marks ultimately protect the features of your brand that make it identifiable. For example, the Nike swoosh symbol is instantly recognisable by consumers.
By applying for trade mark protection early, you are essentially protecting your brand from being misappropriated by another business. In this sense, you are taking measures to maintain your business’ unique brand in the market. You are also ensuring that your business’ goods and services remain distinguishable from goods and services provided by competitors in the market.
3. Raise the Value of Your Business
Trade marks protect the identifiable features of a business’ brand. Therefore, the value of a trade mark is often equated with the goodwill of the business that the trade mark represents. Goodwill refers to a business’ overall reputation and customer loyalty. By registering for a trade mark for your business brand early, you are helping your trade mark to grow in value.
How to Apply for a Trade Mark
To apply for a registered trade mark, you must apply directly with IP Australia. Before applying for a trade mark, you should consider:
- the type of trade mark you require to protect your brand adequately;
- whether a similar or identical trade mark has already been registered; and
- the class of goods and services that your trade mark will protect.
A standard trade mark application will also require you to submit:
- your personal details; and
- a representation of your trade mark, such as your business name or a picture of your business’ logo.
You should note that amending your application once you have filed it with IP Australia comes at an additional cost. Also, IP Australia does not permit certain amendments, such as adding additional classes of goods or services. In the instance where you forgot to include a class of goods or services in your application, you would likely have to submit a new trade mark application altogether.
Generally, you should apply for a registered trade mark early in your business’ operation rather than later. Doing so will ensure that your proposed trade mark is available for registration. In addition, registering a trade mark can develop your brand’s distinct identity and raise your business’ value. If you need help with registering a trade mark for your brand, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist. Call us on 1300 657 423 or complete the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Only registered trade marks can carry the reserved symbol ‘®’. However, both unregistered and registered trade marks can carry the trade mark symbol ‘™’.
A TM Headstart application provides you with additional services to a standard trade mark application. For example, under a TM Headstart application, your application is reviewed by an expert at IP Australia. This pre-assessment can identify any potential errors in your application and gives you the chance to make amendments to your application.