Typically people reflect on their business during the December-January or imagine some innovative business ideas. You might then incorporate or implement your ideas into your business plan in around January and February. It’s now March and time to let theses ideas run their course and start doing some necessary business housekeeping such as undertaking a trade mark audit.
Trade marks are valuable business assets. They may be intangible property, but like other assets, they have a monetary value that contributes to how much your overall business is worth. In addition to this, your business development and marketing pursuits can heavily affect your trade mark’s value. Just like you do with your business’ tangible assets such as real estate and equipment, you should maintain up-to-date records of your trade marks and be aware of the state of your trade mark portfolio.
A trade mark audit is when you conduct an official inspection of your business to identify and catalogue your trade marks. This is important in ensuring that all your trade mark registrations are current and that your trade mark registrations adequately cover all your business’ goods and services. To conduct a trade mark audit, consider following these steps.
1. Tabulate all Your Registered Trade Marks
Compile a list of all your registered trade marks in a table form and include:
- Trade mark registration numbers;
- What the trade mark looks like;
- The goods and services in which the trade marks are registered; and
- The current status and renewal dates.
If any of your trademarks have expired, find out if you can renew them.
In Australia, you can renew a trade mark up to six months after its expiration by paying renewal and late fees. To avoid paying these fees, diarise the renewal due dates. Check the ownership details listed on your registrations. Are the business names and addresses current? If not, update them to ensure that IP Australia or your trade mark lawyer can contact you for any correspondence about your registered trade marks.
2. Check all the Goods and Services Listed in Your Trade Mark Registrations
Check that you are not providing any goods and services unlisted in your resgitrations. If you are, consider applying for your business’ trade mark in respect of additional goods and services.
3. Review Your Business’ Advertising and Marketing Materials
Go through your business’ advertising and marketing materials such as the website, stationaries, and your inventory of goods and services. Do you own or are you using any trade marks that you have not registered? Have you recently re-branded an old trade mark? If yes, consider obtaining trade mark registrations for your new and re-branded trade marks. A trade mark registration for an old logo may not adequately cover you for the re-branded version.
4. International Trade Mark Applications
Consider if you need to apply for your trade mark in other countries. You may or may not know that there is no such thing as an international trade mark registration. Trade mark rights are administered and enforced according to each country’s trade mark legislation. A trade mark registration in Australia then only affords your trade mark protection in Australia. The most popular countries where Australian trade mark owners seek trade mark protection are New Zealand, the United States of America, China, the United Kingdom and a community trade mark for European countries.
5. Who Is Managing Your Trade Mark Portfolio?
If you have more than five registered trade marks in more than one jurisdiction, it may be worthwhile engaging a trade mark professional to manage your trade mark portfolio. It is easy to forget about maintaining and enforcing your trade marks. Engaging a professional will ensure that your trade mark portfolio is always in order so you can focus on business development and day to day business operations.
Questions about auditing your trade marks? Let our trade mark lawyers know on 1300 544 755.