Trademark registration for start-ups: The basics
If you are starting a new business it’s important to consider the registration of trademarks early on. Your brand could become your most important and most valuable asset so why wouldn’t you want to make sure it’s protected?
What is a Trademark?
So, what is a trademark? Basically, it can be any ‘sign’ that one trader uses to distinguish their goods and/or services from those sold by others. A trademark will therefore be more difficult to register if it’s too descriptive/generic, or if it’s likely to cause confusion in the marketplace because it is too similar to earlier-filed trademarks in Australia.
If you have coined a great name for your new business, or developed a great logo for a new product then trademark registration is really the only way to protect that name/logo to ensure that it is recognised as yours. When you register a trademark you do so in connection with the type of product/service you are offering under that mark. Any eventuating rights are therefore in connection with those products and services that you have nominated.
What Rights Does a Trademark Give You?
Ultimately, the owner of a registered trademark enjoys several rights that they wouldn’t otherwise have:
- The right to use the trademark (e.g. name or logo) in connection with the products/services nominated in the application. Believe it or not, registration of a business name, company name or domain name does not provide these rights and use of these could even infringe existing trademark rights;
- The right to authorise the use of the trademark in connection with the goods/services. This means that you could license the use of the trademark to other people, and, you could charge a licensing fee or royalty to them for using your brand;
- The right to instigate action under the Trade Marks Act 1995 against any person found to be infringing your rights. (I.e. by using the same/similar name or logo in connection with similar goods/services without your permission). There are certain times where people won’t be taken as infringing your rights even if they are using the same/similar name or logo so be sure to seek advice before making threats about action.
How Much Does a Trademark Cost to Register?
It’s often thought that trademark registration is hugely expensive; it doesn’t have to be. Firstly, I would ask – how much does it cost not to protect your trademarks? The answer a lot of the time is a lot. Without registration in place others may use very similar names/brands and you might not be able to stop them, which could cost you a lot in lost business. Plus, you might be infringing an existing trademark registration and in that case might have to re-brand entirely, which is an expensive exercise.
The cost to register a trademark in Australia can start from around $1000 including all government fees and professional fees. This is spread over two phases, and, once registered, your rights are in place Australia-wide for 10 years. You could renew your trademark every 10 years if desired.
The costs will ultimately depend on the range of products and/or services you wish your trademark to be protected for. All products/services fall under categories to be selected at the time an application is filed and a fee applies per category.
How Does a Trademark add Value to Your Business?
Registered trademarks can help increase turnover right from the start of business. Firstly, once registered you are entitled to display your trademark with a registered trademark symbol. For example: “XYZ® lawnmowers”. This symbol conveys trust in the minds of your customers. They see this symbol and straight away connect it with a business that has gone through appropriate processes for their business, and whether it’s right or wrong will often associate it with big business and longstanding business.
You can also generate further income by licensing the use of your trademark to others. You can charge a fee for that use but it also means others are working to promote your brand and build its reputation, which in turn helps it increase in value over time.
A trademark is a saleable asset, just as any physical asset is. Therefore, if you ever wish to sell your business then a value can be attributed to your trademarks. Most accountants can help determine appropriate sale value of trademarks and other forms of intellectual property.
Apart from anything else you are selling peace of mind to the prospective buyers. By selling a business inclusive of registered trademarks they know that continued use of any name/logo cannot infringe the rights of others in the county of registration. To sell another party the right to use a name that you have not registered as a trademark could is fraught with danger; that name could be infringing the rights of others.
Get in touch today if you want to start the process of protecting your new business name or brand.
Jacqui Pryor is a trademark consultant in the LegalVision network. She has more than 14 years of experience in Australian and International trademark matters and provides affordable, friendly and reliable services to small businesses and startups.