Whether you are a new or existing café owner, your brand is a fundamental aspect of your business’ future growth and success. Brand building and protection may not seem like an urgent priority, but the ramifications of not protecting your brand early on could be significant and costly. Registering a trade mark for your café is a key step in protecting and building your brand. This article sets out three reasons why registering a trade mark for your café is an essential part of building a successful business.

1. Brand Protection

It is important to recognise the difference between registering your business name and registering a trade mark. Registering your business name and obtaining an Australian Business Number (ABN) does not prevent other businesses from using that name. Only by registering a trade mark do you get the right to use that name to the exclusion of others. To register a trade mark, you need to submit an application for a trade mark to IP Australia. Once registered, a trade mark lasts for ten years, making it an excellent long-term investment in your brand.

Registering a trade mark is valuable for new and established cafés alike. A trade mark can be a valuable asset and provide critical protection from others trying to use your brand. Protecting your brand is of particular importance for established, valuable brands that others may want to use to their advantage. In addition, brand protection is extremely valuable if the market in which you operate is highly competitive.

You may also want to consider registering a trade mark across various categories. A themed café is a good example where you may want to use your branding on a variety of items or merchandise, such as:

  • t-shirts;
  • caps; or
  • mugs.

Protecting your name across various categories allows you to add value to your business in different ways. Importantly, your competitors will be legally unable to replicate such merchandise, thus maintaining the value of your brand.

2. Avoid Disputes Over Similar Names

The ramifications of failing to protect your name with a trade mark early on could be costly. If another business registers a trade mark that is similar to a part of your brand, you could find yourself in a lengthy dispute over one of your most valuable intangible assets. This is of particular risk if your brand is well known and of value to competitors. The last thing you want is a litigation battle to obtain the rights to your name or brand in which you may have invested heavily.

If you do find yourself in a dispute over the rights to your mark, you need to demonstrate the use of the mark prior to the other party registering it.

For example, you would need to show that your café has already been operating under the name or brand.

Depending on the type of objection you raise, you may need to show at least three years of prior use. This could be problematic if you have only just started up.

3. Facilitate Growth

A trade mark can also facilitate business growth. A strong, secure brand attracts customers and can also attract investors. This may provide you with the opportunity to franchise or license the trade mark to others in expanding your brand locally or internationally.

For example, The Coffee Club trade mark is registered and used across all their franchises. This is known as franchising which gives other people the right to use the trade mark. The Coffee Club essentially sells the right to use the trade mark to franchisees. As the trade mark is registered, it cannot be stolen by local or international competitors. As a result, franchisees are willing to invest in purchasing the rights to the trade mark, knowing that the brand will retain its value.

By franchising, The Coffee Club is still able to control how their brand is used. Through a franchising agreement, The Coffee Club sets out clear and specific guidelines as to how the franchisees are to use the brand so that the brand retains its integrity. This is an excellent example of how a strong brand has utilised a trade mark and franchising to grow their brand.

Alternatively, The Coffee Club could license their trade mark to others. However, this would give them a lesser level of control over how their brand is used. It is important to understand the key differences between licensing and franchising.

Key Takeaways

As a café owner, you probably have many competing priorities. It is easy to forget to prioritise your brand. However, investing in your brand early on will pay off in the long-run.

Registering a trade mark for your café can help to:

  • build a strong brand;
  • avoid disputes over similar names; and
  • facilitate growth.

If you have any questions about trade marks or about the process of registering a trade mark, contact LegalVision’s trade mark lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
June Ahern

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