Intellectual Property

Trade Marks and Protecting Your Brand

Trade Mark and Intellectual Property Tips for Business Owners

When the topic of protecting your Intellectual Property (IP) is mentioned, what comes to mind? The Kylie Minogue vs Kylie Jenner brand dispute? Or, perhaps, the Winklevoss brothers vs Zuckerberg million dollar Facebook debacle? Most disputes involving intellectual property will not end up on the news or eventuate as a Hollywood movie. Still, it doesn’t mean it can’t impact your business or livelihood.

IP is the property of your mind — your ideas, concepts and creative thoughts. Protecting your intellectual property means it can only be used, produced, or marketed under the exclusive legal right of the inventor, creator, or owner. There are different types of intellectual property: copyright, which protects the expression of your ideas, whether that be your messaging or artwork; patents, which could be responsible for protecting specially engineered parts of your packaging; and trade marks, which will be the main focus of this article.

What is Trade Marking?

Trade marking includes your business name, logo, and brand, but it doesn’t stop there! It can incorporate your packaging, slogan, sound (e.g. a jingle), symbol, product or service. You can even trade mark a colour or number provided you can prove it is integral to your brand and its identity. Think of the purple wrappers enveloping Cadbury’s milk chocolate, or how about Chanel’s No. 5 perfume? Both elements were so identifiable to their respective brands these companies were able to trade mark them (although just last year Cadbury lost an appeal against Nestle on their purple packaging).

Why Should I Trade Mark My Brand?

A trade mark enables you to distinguish your business from its competitors. It legally protects you from third parties piggy-backing off your brand. Under the Trade Marks Act  1995 (Cth), you can take legal action against people or companies using your trade mark without your knowledge or consent. Furthermore, it helps convey legitimacy and shows customers you are serious about your brand and, therefore, your business.

For new and smaller businesses, having a unique brand (which more prominent companies cannot emulate) can serve to set you apart from your competition. As we at Principle Design can attest to, a brand is an excellent marketing device which can help you to build the value, credibility, and personality of your business.

How Can I Trade Mark My Brand?

In Australia, for a trade mark to be officially recognised it must be registered with IP Australia. Simply registering your business and domain name does not give you exclusive ownership of your business name. This also goes for your website domain. When registering your trade mark, you’ll need to determine in which country(s) you wish to register. There are also different categories — classes of goods and services — you need to take into consideration, and often more than one category may be relevant for your brand.

An IP lawyer can help save you both money and time in the long run. Choosing the wrong classes could leave your brand vulnerable in some areas, allowing other businesses to swoop in and benefit from your hard work, time, and money.  According to IP Australia, a frequent mistake is confusing the types of intellectual property protection required, for example, confusing trade marks and design rights. These are the types of things a lawyer can help set straight for you. IP legal professionals will also ensure you are not infringing an existing trade mark registration which could result in you having to re-brand entirely, a potentially costly mistake.

Protect Your IP

At Principle Design, we do our utmost to ensure our designs for your brand are not only an excellent fit for your business but that they are also unique. However, we are not lawyers. Luckily,  we’ve partnered with some outstanding legal practices to ensure your brand receives the protection it needs, including trade mark specialists, Progressive Legal. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more!