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Building a business is hard work. Whether you are manufacturing a product or delivering a service, you rely on your reputation to attract new customers and grow your business. This is why brand protection is important. Having a strong brand provides a way for your customers to:

  • identify your business; and 
  • refer your products or services to others. 

Establishing a recognisable brand can very quickly build your reputation and client base. In short, a strong brand can be one of your business’ most valuable assets. Protecting your brand can certainly be worth the investment from the outset. So, how do you get brand protection? 

How To Protect Your Brand

The most effective form of brand protection is trade mark registration. If you have come up with a unique business name, a distinctive logo or a catchy slogan that you are proud of and do not want your competitors to use, you should consider applying for a trade mark. A trade mark is a way for you to distinguish yourself in the market. Importantly, it provides you with an exclusive right to use it in respect of the goods and services the mark covers. 

While there is some protection through the law of passing off and the Australian Consumer Law, a trade mark becomes part of the asset pool of your business. This contributes greatly to your business’ value. Having a ‘™’ (pending trade mark) or a Ⓡ (registered trade mark) symbol next to a business name or brand can act as a deterrent for competitors. This is because it can alert them to the fact that ripping off your brand may have serious consequences. Further, a trade mark can be attractive to investors.

How Does Having a Registered Trade Mark Help Me To Protect My Brand?

Registering a trade mark provides you with an enforceable right to stop others from using the mark in connection with similar goods or services as you. 

However, certain exceptions apply. For example, an exception will apply where you have authorised or licensed someone to use your trade mark. 

If someone is using your registered trade mark without your permission, this is known as trade mark infringement. In most cases where this occurs, a cease and desist letter is sufficient to stop the infringement from continuing. However, this will depend on your branding strategy. Where this is unsuccessful, you can enforce the trade mark through the courts.

It is often more difficult and costly to enforce protection under consumer law. A registered trade mark is a way of minimising future enforcement costs. 

The Risks Of Not Protecting Your Brand

Like any valuable asset, risks arise if you do not put adequate measures in place to protect your brand. Failure to protect your brand may result in:

  • damage to your business reputation, by competitors providing substandard products or services in association with your brand name; 
  • dilution of your brand value; 
  • competitors taking advantage of your hard work and attracting customers through use of your branding, who may otherwise have gone to you; and
  • harmful online reviews, leading to rapid word-of-mouth transmission.

What Else Should I Be Thinking About?

Even though you may have a registered trade mark, it is also important to be aware of your competitors’ activities. If you suspect or witness a competitor infringing your intellectual property, it is best to take action as soon as possible. The longer the infringing activity goes on, the harder it will be to stop.

The best way of keeping an eye on potential infringement is to conduct regular online searches of the: 

  • business names register; and 
  • trade marks database. 

Searching these can be difficult, so it is best to speak with a qualified professional about protecting your brand.

It is also a good idea to think about whether you want to expand your brand internationally. Alternatively, you may already be supplying your goods and services internationally and starting to build a reputation overseas. To maintain your brand’s value and capacity to expand, you may want to start thinking about applying to register your trade mark in each country of interest. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a global trade mark. Instead, you can apply to each country in your target market. Discuss your options and strategy with a trade mark lawyer to make sure you are doing this in the most cost effective way.  

Key Takeaways 

The best thing you can do to protect your brand is speak to a trade mark lawyer about applying for a trade mark. Think about how consumers most easily identify your products and services in the market. For example, do you print your logo on your products, or has your business name built up an esteemed reputation? Each aspect of your brand will require its own trade mark application. If you need help with protecting your brand, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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