IT is crucial for business owners, big or small, to know the intricacies of trademark registration to legally safeguard their product or service brand from copying, theft, and infringement, including in overseas markets where they sell.
Trademark disputes are becoming more common as domestic and global online selling is booming in Australia, according to Baxter IP trademark attorney, Binh Rey.
In fact, leading e-commerce sites such as Amazon is now strictly requiring online sellers to prove they have approved trademark registration rights for their brand before they can join, Ms Rey said.
“With electronic commerce allowing access to global customers, it is important to search the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) database to see if your brand could be infringing other brands,” Ms Rey said.
“It will turn into a big problem for business owners in Australia if they don’t understand how trademark works and caught infringing overseas,” she said.
As one of trademark experts at Baxter IP, a team of attorneys that handle disputes on intellectual property rights in Australia, Ms Rey provides businesses with advice on branding to ensure their new venture starts on solid footing.
She also assists business owners save on costs of re-branding by giving them guidance if the brand they wish to use to promote their business, product or service is available or potentially infringing on an existing registered trademark.
Having a registered trademark with IP Australia means a business entity has exclusive use of the brand for their retail chain, product, and marketing slogan and ensure their competitors do not use them in their promotions, Ms Rey explained.
IP Australia is an agency of the Federal Government operating under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in-charge of determining intellectual property rights on trademark, patent, design, and plant breeder rights in Australia.
“It is a misconception that having only a company name, a trading name, or domain name allows the business owner to safely promote the brand in the marketplace,” Ms Rey said. “They need to understand only a registered trademark protects the brand.”
According to IP Australia, a trademark can be a letter, number, word, phrase, logo, picture, aspect of packaging, sound, smell, or shape to promote a business and differentiates a product or service from others.
Ms Rey’s key advice for start-ups and small businesses is to spend ample time to “find the perfect name and ensure it is unique and distinctive and will pass trademark regulations.”
Having a trademark approved and registered in Australia also provides a business owner to licence a trademark for royalty payments or sell a trademark to make profits.
The cost of registering a trademark is also affordable particularly for small business, Ms Rey said.
To find the perfect name for trademark, Ms Rey suggested that business owners avoid the following loopholes: use of descriptive words relating to your industry, including geographical locations, and names of well-known brands.
Researching the industry to see if similar brand names appear and checking the databases of IP Australia and WIPO assures a business owner that the trademark they chose is cleared for use.
Ms Rey has also warned business entities they can lose a registered trademark if they are not using it consistently for at least three years.
Ms Rey is a frequent media commentator on trademark issues in Australia on Kochie’s Business Builders, SBS World News, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and industry publications.
Ms Rey can be contacted on 0402 731 288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.