5 Tips to Protect Your Logo
If you have a logo that you would like to protect, there are a number of ways you can do this. If you have reached the point where you need to protect your logo, it is likely that you have established yourself in your market and are ready to expand and develop your business. Usefully, there are indicators that you can use to show that you have an unregistered or registered trade mark. The ™ symbol is used adjacent to your logo to show that you have an unregistered logo. The ® symbol shows the world that you have a registered trade mark for your logo.
This article will explore five of the key considerations to think about when you want to protect your logo.
1. Register All of Your Different Logos
One of the easier ways to protect your logo or brand is to undertake a review and clearly identify what your logo is. Take stock of the different variations of your logo and act to protect them. Registering a trade mark for your main logo will not protect all the different versions of that logo. If there is a notional or real difference between the types of logos you are using, then it is best to register all of the variations you would like to protect.
In some cases, it makes sense to register your trade mark as early as possible. If you can show use and reliance on your logo in the marketplace ,you are better placed to obtain a registrable trade mark from IP Australia.
2. Do Not Tell Anyone Until You Are Ready to Trade Mark Your Logo
Keep your logo a secret until you are in a position to register your trade mark. This is because other people might be able to lodge a trade mark application before you have time to. If you need to talk to people about it, you can always have all parties sign a confidentiality agreement.
A confidentiality agreement is a great way to protect your secrets, while allowing you to grow your business by being able to discuss it with the right people.
3. Create a Contract Before Work Starts
When a new employee starts, or you are working with contractors, it is important that the parties understand who owns the intellectual property. This can be dealt with in their employment contract or engagement contract. This is an important step to ensure you deal with logo ownership appropriately before beginning a collaboration or hiring employees through an engagement agreement. A contract can help prevent disputes over who owns the intellectual property at the end of the engagement. Even the earliest stages of collaboration can create important intellectual property obligations and rights. The agreement should include:
- confidentiality clauses (or even whole confidentiality agreements); and
- covenants against competing clauses in employment agreements (so that employees can not take your logo or intellectual property and compete with you).
A contract that clearly sets out which party owns the logo created by an employee or temporary contractor will minimise disputes. The agreement should include:
- how a transfer of ownership rights will occur;
- which party can use the logo;
- which party must pay for the logo; and
- if either party can amend the logo.
4. Know the Difference Between ™ and ®
The ™ symbol can be used adjacent to an unregistered trade mark. It puts other people on notice that you are using your logo as a trade mark. It helps you build evidence that you are using your trade mark in the course of your trade.
You are able to use the ® symbol once you have registered your logo (or other trade mark). The ® symbol lets the world know that you hold exclusive rights to the logo. It is an offence to use the ® symbol if you do not hold a registered trade mark over your logo.
For example, if you have a trade mark under application you can use the ™ symbol. Once you have finished the process and gain registration from IP Australia, you can use the ® symbol.
5. Obtain Legal Advice
It is important to obtain legal advice in relation to the types of agreements you can enter into to protect your logo. A lawyer will be able to advise you to set up the appropriate legal protections in your employment agreements and engagement contracts to protect your intellectual property. They will also know:
- the types of classes to use when lodging an application to register your trade mark; and
- how to respond to questions from IP Australia.
When deciding how to protect your logo, you should consider:
- who needs to know about your logo design in the early stages;
- whether you need to enter into confidentiality agreements with vendors or clients; and
- whether you should include non-compete provisions in your employment contracts (to prevent your employees from becoming your competitors).
Frequently Asked Questions
Once you have obtained a trade mark registration, you obtain the right to use the ® symbol. Placing an ® next to your logo gives the world notice that you own the logo.
Anybody who is using a logo can place a ™ next to a logo. However, it does not mean they have registered their logo.
It depends on the way you use it. Sometimes it is easy to register a logo because it is so unique. Other times, you might need to show use in the marketplace, amongst meeting other criteria, before you can register your logo.