How to Trademark a Business Name (2020 Update)
Registering a business name doesn't prevent it from being misused by others. Read about trademarking your business name in this article.
Your business name is as important as your business itself. Not only will it be the vehicle through which you promote and market your business, it will also be the main way your customers remember you.
After you’ve decided on your business name, your next step is to register it. Although registering your business name gives you the exclusive right to trade under that name, it does not protect your intellectual property. In fact, the only way you can do this is by trademarking your business name. In this article, we’ll tell you how you can protect your business name, logo and other assets by registering a trademark for your business.
Why Register a Trademark?
Registering a trademark means that you have legal protection over the assets you register. Not only do you have the exclusive right to use your trademark, you can also take action against anyone who tries to use it without your permission. For businesses, brand recognition is key and registering a trademark means the brand you’re building belongs to you. Any feature that distinguishes your products or services from your competitors can be trademarked. A trademark grants the owner the exclusive right of a particular name, word, phrase, letter, number, shape, smell, sound, colour, image or aspect of packaging. As a trademark owner, you will have the exclusive right to use, sell and licence your business name.
Can you trademark a business name?
Yes. It’s important to note here that registering a name for your business does not give it legal protection. This also applies to company names. Only a trademark can provide proprietary protection for your business name and also prevent others from using it without your permission. Iconic brand names such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Apple, and Google are all protected by trademarks.
Registering your business name as a trademark will enhance the value of your business and allow you build your brand exclusively. Further, registering a trademark will also protect your name from any misuse by your competitors.
How to Trademark a Business Name
Before you apply
Before applying, you should search for your business name on the Australian Trade Mark Search. From this, you’ll see if your business name has already been registered or if there are any similar names that have been trademarked. In the event that your name has already been trademarked, you’ll have to consider building your brand around an alternative name. If you start building your brand on a name that’s already been trademarked, you’ll risk facing legal action for trademark infringement.
The owner of the business name must apply for a Trademark. The owner can be:
- An individual
- A company
- An incorporated association
- A combination of the above
The application is online and also must include:
- Your name and contact details
- A representation of the trademark
- A description of the applicable goods and services
- A list of the relevant classes
- The filing application fee
Determining the Class
When applying to register your business name as a trademark you will need to determine the classes of goods and services appropriate to your business objectives. Goods and services are categorised into 45 classes and must be precisely identified in the application. Further, this selection is important as it ensures that only you can commercially use your trademark within the classes it is registered. For example, you can register a trademark for a food product named ‘Jane’s’, but there may already be a trademarked registered for this name that produces haircare products.
Determining the class of goods and services for your business can be a complicated process. It is important to know the appropriate classes for your business. You cannot alter the class of your trademark once you’ve submitted the application. If this is the case, you should contact a trademark attorney.
Once you’ve submitted your application, it will be examined. Your application will be accepted unless the application has not been made in accordance with the Act or there are grounds for rejection. An examination report will be sent identifying the problems or success of your application.
The business name will be rejected if it:
- Contains prescribed or prohibited signs
- Cannot be represented graphically
- Is not distinctive
- Scandalous or contrary to law
- Likely to deceive or cause confusion
- Identical or similar to registered trademarks
This process takes usually 3 to 4 months after filing the application. If there are no grounds for rejection, your trademark will be registered. It will also be entered into the Australian Official Journal of Trade Marks (AOJTM) and listed under the Australian Trademark Search.
Registered Trademark = Protected Business Name
Now that your business name is a registered trademark it will be protected throughout Australia for an initial period of 10 years. You can also continually renew your trademark after this. As a trademark owner, international applications of your business name will be quick and simple. With a trademarked business name you can now promote, expand and also enhance the value of your business locally and globally.
Registering a trademark for your business name is crucial in building a secure brand. Contrary to what many believe, simply registering a name for your business won’t give it legal protection. The only way you can protect the creative elements of your business is by trademarking your business name.
Zac is a consultant at Lawpath, Australia’s largest and fastest growing online legal platform. Since joining Lawpath, Zac has assisted 1000s of startups and small business’s with their legal needs.