Can I Trademark a Phrase?

Have you ever asked yourself if you can trademark a phrase?

Well, if you have, this post will help you, as a business owner, understand how you can protect your business’ intellectual property with a trademark.

Big and small businesses that have developed successful brands by using key phrases to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Protecting these phrases with a registered trademark is critical to protect your business and its reputation. 

Table of Contents

So, what is a trademark? 

Think of it this way, you are all set to launch a brand new marketing campaign for your business. You have developed a witty phrase that has the potential to rival a “Just Do It” (Nike), “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonalds) or a “Because You’re Worth It” (L’Oréal Paris). The key to a trademark is its distinctiveness.

A good phrase can help your brand stand out in a crowded market. Registering a trademark with the trademark office can provide proprietary protection for your phrase and prevent any unauthorised use by others in Australia. However, applying for a trademark can be time-consuming and a complicated process. 

Can I trademark a ‘phrase’?

The answer is yes. Simply put, a trademark is a sign used to distinguish goods or services and a ‘sign’ can be any letter, word, name, signature, numeral, device, brand, heading, label, ticket, aspect of packaging, shape, colour, sound or scent.

In the digital age, phrases can spread and catch on quickly that you might see your phrase on a t-shirt in ASOS or on a popular website. For this reason, if you do have an exceptional phrase, you should consider trademark registration. ‘Just do it’!

You can easily search if a phrase has a trademark through the trademark electronic search system. This is to ensure you do not get penalised for a trademark infringement.

To save time, It is always a good idea to hire a Lawpath trademark lawyer to make sure your trademark rights are protected as per the Trademarks Act. In addition, the lawyer will be able to track the trademark status to take you through the step-by-step registration process.

What cannot be a trademark?

Non-distinctive and generic words cannot be trademarked in Australia if they are common words that do not distinguish a product or service. The reason for this is that trademarking generic words to describe a service or product may give the trademark holder an unfair advantage over its competitors.

 However, trademarks by themselves become common terms over time. For example – Just google it!, ‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline’. In these cases sufficient evidence can be established that the trademark itself becomes distinguished.

How can you register your phrase as a trademark?

There are practical benefits in registering as a trademark. A trademark owner has the exclusive right to use, sell and licence their trademark. If you intend to commercially market your product, only under trademark law can you benefit from proprietary protection and prevent any unauthorised use. 

If you would like to find out more on how to register your trademark , Lawpath offers services that will help you safeguard your legal rights. 

What is a slogan? Is it the same as a phrase? 

Essentially, a slogan is a type of phrase that businesses use to differentiate themselves. Moreover, a slogan is a catchy and memorable phrase that draws attention. 

A well developed slogan can help your customers remember your brand so that your business stands out from the others. Slogans, as a trademarked phrase are often used to effectively communicate a message within a commercial, political or religious context. They tend to be used repetitively to clearly express a common purpose, an idea or goal. 

A slogan has the intent of persuading a clearly defined target audience. This is why well known slogans are short and striking to keep a business’ brand at the forefront of people’s minds. 

A great example of an effective slogan is Woolworths’ ‘the fresh food people’. 

Why should you use and register a trademark slogan?

You should register a trademark for your slogan, as it provides protection against others using the phrase and clearly defines your brand’s presence. 

Once registered, you will have exclusive use of those words for the specified goods and/or services.

But not all slogans are registrable. So, it’s important to keep these factors in mind when thinking about trademarking a phrase. 

  1. Only trademarks which are deemed to be unique and distinctive can be registered. This highlights the importance of creativity in the phrase. 
  2. A trademark cannot merely be descriptive or have a secondary meaning.
  3. Is the trademark even available in your selected class? You can easily undertake a trademark search to check for similar trademarks. 
  4. Does your trademark application set your business apart from your competitors. 

Can you get sued over using a ‘phrase’?

Using a phrase that’s registered as a trademark can lead to infringement. This means that an injunction can be filed against you or damages can be awarded for any financial loss suffered. It’s better to conduct a search of the Australian Trade Mark Online Search System to check if a phrase has been registered as a trademark. Similarly, consulting a law firm with extensive trademark experience or getting legal advice from a well-established legal service can help protect you against a claim of infringement.

If you are looking to register your phrase as a trademark you will need to get in touch with a trademark lawyer. With Lawpath you will have the expert guidance of a trademark attorney to assist with your trademark registration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of phrases can be trademarked?

Types of trademarks and distinctive phrases that are are worthy of trademark protection can include: 

  • Slogans

  • Taglines

  • Catchphrases

  • Mottos

  • Words

  • Symbols

  • Business names

What phrases can not be trademarked?

Trademarks do not cover the following:

  • Proper Names (without consent)

  • Generic phrases 

  • Descriptive phrases

  • Olympic rings 

  • Australian National Flag

  • ANZAC

  • The Red Cross 

  • Scandalous phrases 

  • Offensive language

  • Profanity

  • Words that condone violence 

  • Everyday speech

Can I trademark a phrase for free? 

Unfortunately registering a trademark is not free, but it is an important step to protect your business’ brand long term. 

How much does it cost to trademark a phrase? 

The answer depends on what type of application process you plan on using. There is a standard filing service or TM Headstart (pre-application service). The filing fee of both these online application services range from $130-$550 depending on the certain type of application you need. 

Can a phrase be copyrighted?

Phrases are protected by trademarks, which means they do not come under the scope of a copyright. Copyrights protect original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

What are the benefits of trademarking a phrase?

The many benefits of trademarking a phrase are rooted in intellectual property protection. When you trademark a phrase you will benefit from exclusive use and its uniqueness. This can create goodwill and brand recognition which can help you grow your business. Similarly, you can avoid infringement claims and stop people from copying your intellectual property.

How Lawpath can help

We understand that time is money, so we ensure that our processing is quick and efficient, and you can get back to what you do best— running your business. 

Instant online application

With Lawpath you can directly apply for trademarks through our easy to use online portal. There is no need to deal with expensive lawyers that are hard to contact. With just a few clicks, you will have your trademark application up and running. 

Pre-filling assessment

At Lawpath, we also offer a pre-filling assessment so you can get a better idea of what you will need throughout the trademark process.  

10-year registration

Registering and protecting your business name, logo or tag line creates value for your business and by choosing Lawpath your brand will be protected for an entire decade

Lawyer assistance available

Through Lawpath’s comprehensive service you will receive your own trademark lawyer that will help you throughout each stage of your application to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. 

Key Takeaways 

Trademarks are incredibly important to protect your brand and its distinctive phrases. If someone were to infringe on your trademark, you would have the right to enforce your legal right as the owner of the trademark. 

Once you register your trademark, the exclusive use it provides means that you will be able to differentiate your business from its competitors.

As covered in this post, if you’re looking for an efficient and cost-effective way of registering your trademark look no further than Lawpath. 

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