Blake Knowles from Cullens Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys talks about how to protect your businesses brand.
As every new business owner knows, there are a thousand things to do and not enough hours in the day.
One of those things is ensuring that the brand you have chosen is protected. But when you are dealing with new clients, hiring new staff or out on the road promoting your business, the legal side of things can get put to the side.
So, maybe a year or so after your brand is launched, you finally get the time to talk to someone about registering a trade mark.
However… one problem. You are told someone else is already using the same brand, and they may have also registered it. Either way, this is not good for you and it’s the last thing you need now that your business is starting to really get off the ground.
In Australia, the first person to use a trade mark for particularly goods or services usually has the best rights to it. If no-one has used a trade mark, the first person to apply to register it will have ‘priority’.
This means that someone else who adopts the same brand later (or something that is very similar) can infringe an earlier trade mark, even if it is not registered.
In the first few months, or even the first few years, there may be no issue. But as your business and reputation grow, the chances of a commercial conflict increase. The risk is even greater in the online marketing age. When a customer types a brand into Google and the top two search results are two unrelated companies with very similar brands, this is a recipe for conflict.
Unfortunately, in many instances the person who adopted the trade mark later may be the one who has to give ground. In a worst case scenario, this could mean legal action and an award of damages against the later user. More importantly, it can mean changing your brand… and losing valuable marketplace recognition and goodwill.
Ideally, you should speak to a trade mark professional well before you launch your brand. If you launch your brand without proper clearance checks, it could be a ticking time bomb. The longer you leave it, the more damage you risk to your business if you end up being forced to rebrand.
However, few things in this world are ideal. Even if you have launched your brand, it is not too late to gain the benefit of professional advice.
At best, you might gain reassurance and peace of mind that your brand is available and registrable. Your attorney can then assist in you protecting your brand through formal registration. At worst, you can get some indication whether it might be better to change your brand sooner rather than later.
If you are a new or existing business and you are concerned about protecting your brand, feel free to call Cullens on 07 3011 5555 for an obligation and cost free initial consultation.