man looking at chalk board

Have you wondered whether it's written trade mark or trademark and why you see different versions of the term around?

In practice, they are the same thing. So why does the word have different versions and which is correct?

In different countries the legislation for trade marks uses different versions of the term and the country follows the version of the term as it’s used in their legislation.

Trade mark, two separate words, is the right way of spelling the term in Australia because that’s how it is used in the Trade Marks Act 1995.

The American Act uses the single word, Trademark, so this use is correct in the USA whereas in Canada the hyphenated trade-mark is used.

In Australia although we use trade mark, Trademark and trade-mark are all the same thing.

What about the TM symbol you see after a brand name, logo or trade mark?

This symbol is used and can be used at any time to  show your customers and your competitors that you intend for it to be a trade mark.

However, it’s important to note that the TM symbol does not mean that the trade mark is registered, it is the ® symbol that shows a trade mark is registered.

In fact, it's an offence to use the ® symbol if your trade mark is not registered, it’s a bit like false advertising.

What’s a registered trade mark?

A trade mark is a sign that could be a word, image, logo or phrase which is used to differentiate the goods and or services of one business from those of another business.

Trade marks are registered in relation to the goods or services which the trade mark owner has applied for, not just anything and everything.

The same or similar trade mark can be registered for different things because it’s unlikely consumers would think that the same company that makes chocolate also makes soap. Think Dove chocolate and Dove soap.

Remember, whilst you can apply for any goods or services for your trade mark, you need to make sure you register in the classes for what service you provide. Think about what it is that you do for others!

For example, imagine you’re a coffee shop and you make coffee, whilst you use coffee beans, a grinder and sell coffee in cups, you’re not manufacturing those cups and roasting the beans, so you would register for the service you actually provide to others, and that’s coffee shop services.  

A registered trade mark gives its owner exclusive use of the mark in connection with their goods or services. It can also be licensed to others or sold. If you are in business and believe you have a trade mark consider registering your trade mark, as it can be a valuable asset for your business.

By Jodie, IP Australia

1 July 2016