✔️ You’re an industrious and pioneering business owner.
✔️ You have an established customer base that loves you.
✔️ You’ve worked hard to define and nurture your competitive advantage.
✔️ You have a brand name, a logo and other assets that make you recognisably, you.
✔️ Your business is thriving.
✔️ Your five-year vision is finally in sight.
…And then WHAM, out of nowhere you get a letter asking you to stop trading under your name. You spend the next few years in a bitter trademark dispute potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars. It unfortunately happens to business owners in Australia all the time…
So the question is, what have you put in place to protect the sheer effort, time and investment you’ve made in your business?
The answer is trademark registration.
Trademarks assist in the protection of the time and investment that you have made in your competitive advantage.
For a multitude of reasons, many businesses today often overlook the important first step in securing the longevity of their brand: trademarking their brand assets.
The process of trademarking provides essential legal protection for competitors who choose to copy, or take advantage of what you have built up.
According to the ABS, there are over 2.4 million actively traded brands in Australia alone. That’s 2.4 million businesses all vying for a stake in their respected markets, and a stake in the eyes of their consumers (ABS, 2019).
But trademarking isn’t just reserved for the big brands of the world like Nike, Starbucks or McDonalds.
With the proliferation of new brands, new problems to solve, ease of entry and the availability of tools in the market to trade, and trade quickly, it’s never more vital for modern-day businesses to protect their brands through the process of trademark registration.
What is a trademark?
According to IP Australia:
- A trademark is a way of identifying a unique product or service. It’s a form of brand protection that distinguishes between your products or services and those belonging to your competitors (IP Australia, 2021).
- It can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, movement, aspect of packaging, or a combination of these (IP Australia, 2021).
- It’s not the same as having an ASIC registered business name, or owning your domain
Trademark protection secures the right to exclusively use your logo or phrase, or items above, removing the likelihood of copycat brands and competitors benefiting from what you have established. It ensures your competitors can’t use those trademarks.
Tell me again why trademarking is a good idea.
There are many reasons.
- Gain legal protection from competitors who attempt to copy your brand
- Protect the value of your brand as you grow and become more successful
- Make your brand more valuable when you sell or exit the business – a trademark can show you value in your brand as an asset
- Not registering a trademark leaves a business open to lawsuits from companies who did register one under the same name, sign, slogan, or design. If that happens, your business will be forced to re-do your brand identity, from website, to logo to brand name and everything else.
- It will protect your assets from the get-go, enabling your success in the long run
Here are some common objections that we’ve heard.
- I have a logo. That’s a trademark.
Unless registered, a logo doesn’t constitute a trademark. It won’t provide you with any legal protection for your brand or prevent competitors from using it.
- It’s too expensive.
When it comes to foundational brand work, let alone legal brand protection, this should be seen as a necessary cost. Protection typically costs between $1,500 and $3,000 for 1-2 categories. Just think about the cold sweat-inducing $30,000+ you’ll be saving down the track if someone else registers your hard work.
- It’s too burdensome.
It’s actually a fairly straightforward process for most brands. Outsource it to experts who can do the heavy lifting for you.
- Only big brands need to trademark their assets.
Remember that big brands weren’t always big brands. Good brands grow in value over time – trademarking protects this investment.
- I won’t be affected by a copycat brand. I’ve traded for so many years without it.
While proving you have an established brand offers some protection, if you haven’t registered your trademark, your rights can be restricted to the locations you have traded in.
- I should wait until I make money from my product/service first before investing in a trademark.
If you establish your brand without owning trademarks, you may potentially be infringing on someone else’s rights without knowing, resulting in legal processions and extremely costly re-branding exercises.
At Pixel Palace, we live and breathe brands and rebrands, and we have legal partners who can help you take the steps to protect your business. If you’re needing help with a distinctive strategy and clear stake in your competitive industry, this is where we can come in. From brand naming to logo design, we build brands that help you succeed in your market, designed with trademarking considerations in mind so you can get the best outcomes for brand protection.
So business owners, do us (and yourselves!) a favour, and don’t overlook trademarking. On the whole, it’s a tiny investment into your brand that you’ll always be thankful for doing.
It makes your business more valuable and secures its future.
*Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and it isn’t intended to be a substitute for legal advice either. Please seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any particular matters you or your organisation may have. At Pixel Palace, we have a network of partners who can help, so for any brand protection enquiries get in touch.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021. Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits. Released 16 February 2021. Accessed July 2021 [Online] https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/business-indicators/counts-australian-businesses-including-entries-and-exits/latest-release
IP Australia, 2019. Trademark basics. Accessed July 2021. [Online] https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/trade-marks/understanding-trade-marks/trade-mark-basics