Branding is a task that’s found at the top of every new business owner’s ‘to-do list’. A well-crafted name/brand is one of the most important tools in the marketing toolkit. It’s usually the case that protecting your brand is found much further down your ‘to-do’ list, or not on the list at all.
Failing to secure your legal rights for your brand can be disastrous – you only need to look as far as the current ‘Ugg’ dispute for a great example of how name usage disputes can escalate into expensive court battles. Who would have thought the humble ugg boot could cause so much controversy.
There are two key brand related actions that all businesses should undertake:
- Register your business name
- Trademark your name/brand
Registering a business name is a legal requirement (there are some exceptions – e.g. for individuals and companies trading under their own name). It’s inexpensive, can be done online and is usually quick & painless. In terms of protection however, registering a business name does very little. It does not prevent competing businesses operating under similar names – that job belongs to trademarks.
Registering a trademark gives a business an exclusive badge of origin. It provides the trademark owner with enforceable intellectual property rights that it can use to protect its name (e.g. by stopping others trading under the same/similar names) and to commercialise its name (e.g. by securing rights for licensing to others). Registering your business name as a trademark can also be coupled with a registration of any logo or tag line, which helps ensure the entire brand image is safe.
The process of registering a trademark is more involved than registering a business name. Business owners can do it themselves by contacting IP Australia, but it’s often smart to get professional help to make sure steps like pre-registration searches, class selection and owner identification are completed correctly.
We regularly register trademarks and business names for clients, whether they are either starting something new or protecting something current.