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If you own a sports or social club, you should think about trade marking the key elements of your brand. Many businesses trade mark important intellectual property (IP) such as mascots or logos. This article will explain how trade marks work and why you should consider using them for your sports or social club.

What Are Trade Marks?

A trade mark allows you to both identify and distinguish your goods and services from competitors. Many different types of IP may be successfully trade marked. A trade mark might be a distinctive:

  • name;
  • word;
  • logo;
  • symbol;
  • slogan; or
  • device.

For example, McDonald’s has trademarks for its name (McDonald’s), slogan (“I’m Lovin’ It”) and logo (the famous golden arches).

Why Do They Matter?

Registering a trade mark can help your business in several ways. Trade marks can give your club:

  • the exclusive right to use that mark in relation to your goods or services;
  • legal protection if another business attempts to copy or benefit from your brand; and
  • a valuable asset to license if you hope to one day expand or franchise your business.

If you do not trade mark your club’s branding, there is nothing to stop another club or business from adopting similar branding.

For example, if you have a famous mascot, another club could create a similar mascot to promote their club. If this club then decides to trade mark their mascot, they could potentially stop you from using your mascot, even though you came up with the idea first.

How Do Sports Clubs Use Trade Marks?

Pride in your club’s culture is probably very important to you and your fans. Branding is central to achieving a strong sense of identity in your club’s community. If your local sports club becomes more successful and begins to compete in national or international competitions, you will need more than local recognition to distinguish your brand. As your club’s brand grows, so too does the need to protect it.

Sports clubs may have a wide range of IP to protect. Your fans and competitors probably associate many different aspects of your brand with your club. These recognisable aspects might include:

  • uniforms;
  • jerseys;
  • colours;
  • mascots; and
  • nicknames.
For example, the Queensland state of origin team in rugby league is famously nicknamed ‘the Maroons’. Even though the Maroons is not their official team name, ‘QLD Maroons’ is registered as a trade mark to protect this distinctive element of their brand.

Other famous sports clubs that have registered trade marks include the:

  • Chicago Bulls;
  • Wallabies; and
  • New York Yankees.

Many local sports clubs in Australia, such as the Marconi Stallions in Sydney’s south-west, also have registered trade marks for their names and logos.

Regardless of whether your sports club is local or global, you should take the time to consider your club’s popularity, brand exposure and merchandise. You may need to protect these assets with trade marks.

How Do Social Clubs Use Trade Marks?

Social clubs are an important feature of the Australian community. Well-known examples of social clubs include:

  • bowling clubs;
  • RSL clubs;
  • golf clubs; and
  • religious clubs.

Given the popularity and number of social clubs in Australia, having a recognisable brand is key to making your club stand out and growing a dedicated community.

If you own  social club, you should consider how your reputation, tradition, code and image can help you to:

  • attract new members;
  • build loyalty; and
  • build a brand.

Protecting your brand ensures that your club is distinguishable from its competitors and remains able to offer members unique goods and services.

Key Takeaways

Trade marks allow you to distinguish and protect your brand. As the owner of a sports or social club, your brand may consist of:

  • images;
  • names;
  • logos;
  • uniforms;
  • mascots; or
  • nicknames.

Without a trade mark, your club will not have exclusive rights to these aspects of your brand. This can weaken your brand and allow competitors to steal your IP.

If you have any questions about trade marks, contact LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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