Registering a trademark confers far more benefits than registering a business name, company name or domain name. Marketing is an important business tool, and a registered trade mark is crucial in allowing you to protect any value or credibility which you have built on your brand.
What is a trade mark?
A trade mark identifies a product or service, distinguishing it from the goods or services of other entities. A registered trade mark protects any branding element within a business including letters, numbers, words, phrases, sounds, smells, shapes, logos, pictures and aspects of packaging. Registration alone of a business name, company name or domain name does not offer that level of protection.
Registering a trade mark allows the owner of the trade mark to commence legal action to stop others using it. Trade marks can be used to help build market position and stop others from imitating your brand. The registration of a trade mark is effective for 10 years and can be renewed for further 10 year periods thereafter.
Registration of a trade mark covers the entire Commonwealth of Australia. For worldwide protection, an application can be filed with each country in which the trade mark will be used, or a single international application can be filed through IP Australia nominating the countries in which protection is required.
Applying for a trade mark
Trade marks are registered in specific classes relevant to the description of the goods or services for which the mark will protect. The application for registration must nominate one or more classes of goods or services for which the mark is intended to be used and associated. If the mark applies to more than one class, the wider the protection that mark has once the trade mark is registered.
Before making an application to register your trade mark, the following should be considered:
- Identify the relevant class of goods or services for which the mark will apply. Schedule 1 of the Trade Marks Regulations 1995 prescribes the available classes and describes the types of goods of services specific to each class. A search should be carried out before applying to register a trade mark to check that a similar trade mark is not already registered in that class. An application to register your trade mark will be rejected if there is an identical or similar trade mark already registered which covers similar goods or services.
- Only minor changes can be made to a trade mark once an application has been filed and published.
- A trade mark registration is for the goods and services you actually trade in or intend to trade in in the near future. Once an application is filed and registered, goods and services cannot be added. Therefore, you should clearly define the marketplace you trade in to ensure the best possible protection.
- Your trade mark must be something that is capable of distinguishing your goods and services. Exclusive rights are difficult to register over everyday language, names and descriptions of products and services
Once you are happy with your trade mark, you can apply to register it through the IP Australia website. You can also request an assessment of the likelihood of your trade mark achieving registration through TM Headstart.
The cost of applying for a trade mark will vary depending on the scope of the application. Generally, the minimum cost to apply is $120 for each class of goods and services. In Australia there are 45 different classes of goods and services and each additional class costs an extra $300.
The application process
Once your trade mark is accepted, it will be advertised in the Australian Official Journal of Trade Marks and the application is open to opposition for a period of 3 months (which can be extended by an opponent for a further 3 month period where there has been an error or omission).
If your application is not challenged, your trade mark will be registered once the registration fee is paid (payment must be made within 6 months from the date acceptance is advertised or your application will lapse).The registration of a trade mark in Australia takes at least 7 months after an application is filed.
Seek legal advice
When applying for an Australian trade mark it is important to ensure your trade mark description and classes accurately reflect the goods or services for which you intend to use your trade mark. By investing in protecting your brand today, you can avoid the costly and uncertain exercise of preventing unauthorised use of your unregistered trade mark in the future. We are experienced in intellectual property matters and can work with you to ensure your trade mark is registered in the appropriate class or classes, and to respond to any opposition to the proposed registration. We are also able to assist with trade mark and copyright disputes.
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice regarding trade marks, please contact us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form.