Trade marking your company name is one of those things that feels kinda unnecessary… until it is.
New friend and colleague Binh Rey from Pointon Partners recently told me a story of two Aussie businesses with similar business names in the same market, who are currently in a trade mark dispute over their brand name. As it turns out, this is pretty common - neither of them considered trade marking until they had built something they valued.
Had one of them claimed the trade mark when they started their businesses, the issue would have not only been much easier, but also a significantly lesser expense - it’s now something like 3x the cost it would have been years back when they started. Plus, it’s now an ongoing legal expense until it’s resolved, rather than a once-time cost... unfortunately, one of the resolutions could be that they lose, and will need to go through the arduous journey of a forced rebrand.
We may think of trade marks as something only the huge players need to deal with, but they’re a very real part of the SME world.
To paraphrase Binh: “If you are happy to change your brand name when you receive a cease and desist letter, then you don’t need trade mark protection. Essentially, without trade mark registration you may need to be prepared for another company demanding you to change your name at some point down the track.”
Trade marking is a serious consideration for businesses at any stage - startup, during a rebrand, or in the business-as-usual time in-between.
If you’re currently rebranding, the entire project could be derailed if you haven’t done your due diligence, and that C&D letter arrives. That’s the “fear” part, but I don’t like to stoke fear - so the flipside of that are the opportunities that lie in trade marking, and not just in your business name.
You can trade mark several components of your brand, from your domain name, specific products or processes, or any other IP - which opens up a world of opportunity, such as licensing (where you sell your systems to other businesses, sort of like franchising).
IP Australia is a great first stop to see what your competition looks like - search for similar named organisations, check out the spaces they operate in, and if you have questions an IP attorney like Binh will be able to help.
(We’re not affiliated with Binh or Pointon Partners in any way).
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