I have registered a business and company name. Do I need to register a trade mark?

I have registered a business and company name. Do I need to register a trade mark?

Two years ago, you quit your soul-destroying secretarial job to start your own business as a virtual assistant (a.k.a. VA). You registered a business and company name which you love. You perfected your ability to juggle 23278327 clients at once while keeping your sanity. You came up with an online course that leaves regular VA’s for dead. You invested a shite ton on your branding and website.

Fast forward two years and you are booked out. Money is streaming in. The VA life is good until you find out that some pesky clown has stolen your business name and clever online course!

You come to us (understandably) ticked off and we say that without a registered trade mark, you need to prove to us why your business name and online course is uniquely yours and more. Meanwhile, that sly dog is clowning around making money out of your brainchild!

In this blog, we explain what trade marks are in plain English and why registering a trade mark is essential to protect your business. 

Trade mark 101

A trade mark is a way for you to have exclusive (i.e. legal) rights to the name of the products and services that you offer.

It essentially protects the hard work you have invested in your business and ensures that sneaky people cannot pass it off as their own without repercussions.

You can register a trade mark on virtually anything that makes your business unique (a.k.a. distinguishing identifiers) including:

Words/names: Typed “Foundd Legal” into Google today? Caught up on that new season of Bridgerton on Netflix? Jotted down something to remember on a “Post-it”? The words “Google”, “Netflix” and “Post-it” have all been trade marked.

Netflix

Slogans/phrases: How often do you want a cheeseburger when you hear the phrase “I’m lovin’ it”? Maccas were on to a good thing when they trade marked that one, weren’t they?

McDonalds "I'm lovin' it"

Movements: Ever done the “Toyota jump”? That’s a trade mark that no other company can use without being sued.

Toyota jumping advertisement

Colours: Had a midnight craving for Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate? Cadbury trade marked the colour purple for its packaging for years.

Cadbury purple package

Sound: “We’re happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be. We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea.” It’s  catchy, isn’t it? Lucky the owners of Vegemite made some noise by trade marking the jingle.

Vegemite

Images and symbols: You have to be living under a rock if you do not recognise these two trade marks? Imagine how much they would be worth now and how much money Nike and Apple would have lost if they had not trade marked them!

Apple Logo

Shape: What is the shape of a Toblerone chocolate bar and a Pringle? Valuable (and yummy) enough to be trade marked!

Pringle's cans

Scent: Has Play-Doh kept your kids out of mischief for hours? Can you smell it from a mile away? The scent of Play-Doh made its way to the trade mark register too.

Play-Doh package

Packaging: Received something special from Tiffany & Co? Fun fact: the name for the box (Tiffany Blue Box) it came in has been trade marked along with its forget-me-not blue paper and white satin ribbon. Tiffany & Co have even trade marked their signature colour (Pantone No. 1837) too!

Tiffany Blue Box

Signature: Yes, you can trade mark your signature. Taylor Swift trade marked hers.

Taylor's signature

A combo of all of the above (or some at least): Think Adidas or M&Ms. 

Adidas

Why registering a trade mark is essential to protect your business

If you think you are safe because you have registered a business and company name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, you are wrong!

Take it from us, registering a business or company name will NOT:

  • give you exclusive rights to use your words, names, slogans, movements, colours, sound, images, symbols, shapes, scents, packaging or signatures;
  • stop others from stealing your name or using a similar one to slap on their goods and services because they are lazy;
  • stop you from being sued by others who say you are using their words, names, slogans, movements, colours, sound, images, symbols, shapes, scents, packaging or signatures.

Registering a trade mark will protect all your hard work and give you (the owner of the trade mark) exclusive rights to use it. That means, you will have the power to challenge or sue the pants off anyone who uses it without your permission! If they cannot adequately explain why they are using your stuff, they will need to get rid of theirs!

It makes no sense to pour your blood, sweat, tears and money into building your brand and getting an online presence only to start again because you did not protect your business with a trade mark. Your business is valuable. Protect it. You won’t regret it.  You’ll only regret not doing this sooner!

Still confused about registering a trade mark? We don’t blame you! Book in a free consult with a trusted friend (us, duh!). We’d also recommend checking out this bad boy Tricks of the Trade Mark.

 

 

 

Riz McDonald is an e-commerce business owner, business coach, podcaster and a lawyer for over 16 years. She’s also a mum and a lover of good wine...she only ever drinks the cheap stuff when she’s stoney broke.

***Disclaimer. Please read!!***

This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance.  It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice.  

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