How To Determine Who Owns A Trade Mark
If you are thinking of purchasing or obtaining a license to use a registered trade mark, you will likely need to contact the trade mark owner. One of the main benefits of having a publicly accessible trade mark registry in Australia is that you can easily find the owner of a registered trade mark. To help you navigate IP Australia’s Trade Mark Registry, this article provides tips on conducting a trade mark search and clarifies who can own a registered trade mark.
Conducting A Trade Mark Search
As mentioned above, IP Australia’s Trade Mark Registry is a publicly available database that contains all trade marks that IP Australia has registered or removed. You can use the search function on the registry to find out who owns a trade mark as explained below.
1. Conducting A ‘Quick Search’
If the trade mark you have in mind protects a word or phrase, you can find out who owns this trade mark by simply entering the word or phrase in the search bar. For example, if you wanted to find out who owns the exclusive rights to use the brand name ‘Apple’, simply enter the word into the search bar. Once you identify the relevant trade mark from the search results, you can click on the inscription to reveal further information, such as the:
- name of its owner;
- owner’s address;
- trade mark number;
- filing and renewal date;
- class of goods and services that the trade mark is registered in connection to; and
- address for service.
If the registered trade mark you have in mind contains an image rather than a word or phrase, you also have the option of uploading an image to the search bar. You can do this by selecting the button on the search bar with the silhouette of a camera and uploading an image of the trade mark accordingly. Again, once you identify the relevant trade mark from the search results, you can click on the inscription to reveal who owns the trade mark.
2. Conducting An ‘Advanced Search’
Since a quick search of the Registry can provide you with a vast amount of search results, it can be difficult to find the specific trade mark you had in mind. Luckily, you can further narrow your search results by conducting an advanced search of the Registry.
More specifically, an advanced search is useful if the registered trade mark includes a name or phrase containing more than one word. For example, suppose you wanted to search a trade mark containing the phrase ‘cleaning service’. You can select the option where both terms will be present in the search results in an advanced search. This is different from entering the phrase ‘cleaning service’ via a quick search. An advanced search would provide trade marks with the phrase ‘cleaning service’ and include trade marks that contain the words ‘cleaning’ or ‘service’ separately.
An advanced search also gives you the option to search for the ‘exact’ results of the terms you have entered. This means the search options generated will only include the terms that you have selected. In this sense, by conducting an advanced search, you can narrow down your options and find who owns the trade mark.
Who Can Own A Registered Trade Mark?
When you determine who owns a registered trade mark, it would be worth considering how a business’ legal structure can affect who owns it. Put simply, a trade mark owner must have a recognised legal status. They must be either an individual, a group of individuals or an incorporated company. An applicant can apply for a registered trade mark if:
- they are using or intend to use the trade mark;
- the original owner has authorised them to use the trade mark; or
- they intend to assign the trade mark to a company that will use the trade mark.
If a sole trader uses a registered trade mark to promote their goods or services, then the sole trader themselves are likely to own the trade mark. On the other hand, if a company uses a trade mark to promote their goods or services, then the company as a legal entity will likely be the owner. In the instance where the company is not incorporated, it is typical for the company’s directors to make the trade mark application themselves. Additionally, it is common to find in business partnerships that both partners jointly own a registered trade mark.
In any event, a business’ legal structure can affect who owns a trade mark. Therefore, if you are still unsure about who owns a specific trade mark after searching, it is also possible to contact a lawyer who can help you identify the owner.
Since IP Australia maintains a database of all registered trade marks in Australia, identifying the trade mark owner is generally not a problem. If you want to find out who owns a trade mark, you can conduct different searches on the Trade Mark Registry. If you need help with finding out who owns a trade mark, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist. Call us on 1300 657 423 or complete the form on this page.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you use a registered trade mark without the owner’s permission, you risk committing trade mark infringement. Consequently, you could find yourself in a legal dispute where you may be forced to cease the infringing conduct and be held liable to pay damages for the losses the owner suffered.
The cost of trade mark registration varies depending on the type of trade mark you apply for and the classes of goods and services you wish your trade mark to protect. You can find a breakdown of IP Australia’s costs here.