Guide to understanding trade marks for small businesses
Part 1: What are trade marks and what are the benefits for a small businesses
IP Australia, the government agency that administers IP rights, estimates that of the total 2.3 million registered Australian small businesses, just 28,000 have a trade mark. Many of these small businesses explain that they’re either unaware of the benefits of trade mark protection or find out too late, when they’re infringing on someone else’s brand. This is part 1 of a 6 part series of articles to help you, our small business customers, learn more about trade marks!
What are trade marks?
A trade mark is a sign used to differentiate your business amongst others out in the market who are providing goods and services similar to yours. The most common types of trade marks are brand names, logos or a distinctive phrase.
What are the benefits?
A trade mark can help build a memorable experience with customers, and lead to brand loyalty and repeat business. Registering a trade mark also gives you exclusive rights to use that trade mark as your brand in Australia, and you have a legal avenue to prevent others from trading with it for similar goods and services. You can benefit from:
- Exclusivity: Exclusive right to use the trade mark across all Australian states, for an initial period of 10 years with the ability to renew indefinitely.
- Protection: Having a legal avenue to stop others from using your trade mark on similar goods and services.
- Licensing: The ability to authorise others to use your trade mark. This is a powerful tool for when you create agreements with producers, distributors, sellers or contractors.
- Business value: A trade mark can be bought, sold or transferred and can increase the value
How much does a trade mark cost?
Applying for a trade mark takes approximately 15 minutes and can be as cheap as $330.
One of the major reasons why you should consider registering a trade mark is that it significantly reduces the risk you’ll need to rebrand should another organisation or individual start to use a similar name, logo or recognisable expression.
Rebranding activities can be costly and time consuming, and that’s before the inclusion of litigation costs that may occur due to trade mark infringement.
How long does a trademark last?
Your trade mark registration lasts for ten years from its filing date.
You can renew your trade mark registration 12 months before your renewal is due, or up to six months after. You will need to pay extra fees if you renew after the due date.
How to check if your trade mark is available or if you’re infringing on someone else’s brand
You can start by using IP Australia’s free trade mark checker tool. The tool will give you an indication if there are already trade marks that might be similar to your proposed brand or name – from there it’s a simple process to start the application to register your trade mark.