Like any valuable business asset, your brand should be protected. Failure to protect your brand may reduce its value, and could damage your brands’ reputation.
If a competitor were to start using your brand, or worse rip it off with a copycat to advertise their own services they may be attracting customers that would otherwise have come to you, or worse, be delivering sub-standard products or services under your name.
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Where do I start with Brand Compliance & Trade Marking?
While there is some protection through law of another company ‘passing off‘ as your brand through consumer law, the most effective form of brand protection is through trade mark registration.
Trade marking your brand is a sign used to distinguish one person’s goods or services from those of others. Registering a trade mark provides you with a legally enforceable right to stop other traders using your trade mark to advertise similar goods or services without authorisation.
If someone is using a registered trade mark without permission of the trade mark owner to sell similar goods or services, this is known as trade mark infringement. In most cases where this occurs, a simple cease and desist letter is sufficient to stop the infringement from continuing. Where this is unsuccessful, the trade mark can be enforced through other methods.
A registered trade mark can be seen as a way of minimising future enforcement cost. It also notifies others that you’re serious about protecting your brand, and increases the value of your business.
Even though you may have a registered trade mark it’s also important to be attentive to the activities of your competitors. If you suspect or witness your brand being infringed it is best to take action as soon as possible. The longer the infringing activity goes on the harder it will be to stop.
Trademark? Registered trademark symbol? Or something else?
Should your brand be listed as a Trademark™, Registered®, or Copyrighted©?
A trademark is a symbol, word, or series of words that have been established as being representative of a company, brand, or product. The word “trademark” indicates that the organisation that owns the trademark has applied to register it with the appropriate agency. The ™ symbol should be used for any intellectual property that fits one of two categories:
It has not yet been registered yet; or The registration has been filed but is not yet official. In Australia, you can find out more here.
The ™ lets people know that you are claiming the rights and use of the trademarked symbol or words for yourself. It is not proof of ownership. For that, you must prove that you were the first to use the trademark and that use of it by anybody else would materially harm you.
Once your application for a Trademark has officially been approved, you may use the Registered® symbol. The ® symbol is proof that you have registered your Trademark. It makes it possible for you to use your Trademark freely without fear of it being easily co-opted by someone else and seek damages against anyone who uses your Trademark without permission. It also helps prevent imitators from bothering you with copycat products
In other words, being able to list your symbol or words as Registered® establishes you as the owner of a Trademark and protects you against being harmed if somebody else uses your Trademark without permission.