“What should I do to protect my logo when it’s ready?”
Great question. It shows you’re thinking about your branding and its importance to your business.
However, your logo is only one part of your brand. A more encompassing question to ask is: “What should I do to create and protect a distinctive overall brand?” That includes name, logo and other elements.
The best time to ask this question is when preparing your initial business plan and conceiving what your business is going to look like. A brand is an integral part of most businesses, and protecting it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Your brand is where reputation rests, and it’s valuable.
Considering how your brand is going to distinguish your business from other traders requires some careful thought and planning.
Also just as important is creating a brand that doesn’t infringe the rights of others. One of the last things you want as a new business is to receive a lawyer’s letter demanding that you change your name or logo. That’s disruptive, expensive to deal with, and very dispiriting after the work you’ve put in to start generating a reputation.
Creating a protectable brand involves more than just registering a business name. A common trap is assuming that company or business names protect your brand. They don’t. Although it’s true that the exact same company or business name cannot be used by anyone else, their purpose is to identify the person conducting the business – they’re essentially a form of consumer protection. By themselves, they don’t give you any rights against others who might use a name that is too close to yours, and they also don’t give you a defence to infringing someone else’s trade mark.
Much stronger is a registered trade mark, which is an important part of brand management and protection. Once successfully registered, a trade mark grants the owner the exclusive right to use that mark in respect of the registered goods and/or services.
A trade mark can be a name, slogan, word, logo, and, less commonly, even a colour, scent or smell. The important thing is that its function must be to distinguish one trader’s goods or services from those of others. It’s common to apply for a name (word trade mark) and a logo in parallel with each other, to broaden the extent of protection.
To be registrable, a trade mark must be distinctive. It cannot be too generic or descriptive of the goods and services it is used over, or too close to another business’ trade mark.
Researching the availability of your proposed trade mark involves searches of the company and business name registers, the trade marks register, and a general Internet search to see who might be using that mark and claim rights in it. Availability of domain names should also be checked, within a domain space that is appropriate for your business. All these searches can be freely undertaken online, but you may wish to seek some assistance from a trade mark attorney or intellectual property lawyer.
Similarly, you can apply for a trade mark online via the IP Australia website, but as there’s a lot to consider, it’s often preferable to engage a trade mark attorney or intellectual property lawyer.
If using a graphic designer to create your logo and branding, work together to find a logo concept that is unique. The online trade mark search tool at the IP Australia website allows a reverse image search to help see whether anything like your proposed logo has already been registered.
Your logo should also not contain any artwork, pictures, images or photos created by someone else, without that creator’s permission. Even if that content does not form part of someone else’s trade mark, using it without permission risks copyright infringement in the other person’s work, and your trade mark application being refused.
Protecting your brand starts with formulating a good brand strategy. That requires:
- Planning your brand strategy in advance;
- Researching and conducting searches to check the availability of your proposed name and logo;
- Ensuring you have permission to use any third party content in any logos; and
- Applying for registered trade marks for your name and logo, and therefore gaining the exclusive right to use them over the registered goods or services. ☁︎
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Stratocumulus Legal does not accept any liability for any reliance on the content of this article. Legal advice should be sought based on your specific circumstances.