Securing your brand

Your brand can be the difference between success and failure. It’ll be how your customers seek you out, remember you, and talk about you.

A common misconception is that a trade mark is the same thing as a business name, company name or domain name. It’s not.

So as you start to work on your initial ideas, you should think about developing and secure all these aspects of your brand.

Your first step in establishing an online presence will probably be licensing your domain name. Naturally you’ll want to see if the domain name is available, but trade marks and business names should weigh on your decision. Here’s why.

If you use someone else’s trade mark for your brand, you may be open to legal action from the trade mark owner. This can occur for names which are the same as, or similar to, their trade mark. 

Let’s search

You can check the availability of your preferred business name and domain name using the Business.gov.au name check tool.

To check if there are conflicting trade marks try our Trade Mark Assist tool.

Alternatively, for a small fee, you can use our TM Headstart service which will provide a more comprehensive assessment of the registrability of your trade mark. One of our trade mark examination team will do a qualified search and provide you with a report to help you decide. If the search is clear (ie there are no issues that would prevent you from registering your trade mark) you can continue with the application and get your trade mark protection locked away.

Top tip: When using Trade Mark Assist, remember to search spelling variations.

A trade mark for your domain name?

When it comes to protecting your brand, a registered trade mark is a powerful option. Whether you need to register your trade mark and licence your domain name will depend on your circumstances.

A trade mark is used to differentiate your business from your competitors. The owner of a registered trade mark has the exclusive right to use the trade mark in relation to the goods and / or services for which the trade mark was registered.

This does not include use as a domain name. Licensing of domain names is carried out by companies on behalf of the Australian Domain Name Authority (auDA) on a first in, first served basis. Having a trade mark application or registration does not automatically entitle you to the domain name licence.

If someone has licensed a domain name the same as or similar to your trade mark, you need to lodge a complaint with auDA. This only applies to the .au country code – it doesn’t extend to other countries, nor generic top-level domains such as .com or .org regulated by other bodies.

If you’re interested, we have more information on other actions you can take against online infringers.