What are trade marks?

A trade mark protects your company's unique brand, products or services.

At a glance

  • Shield
    Protects your brand, products or services
  • Costs $250 (min)
  • Takes 7 months (min) to register
  • Lasts up to 10 years before renewal

What do trade marks protect?

A trade mark legally protects your brand and helps customers distinguish your products or services in the market.

Trade marks can be used to protect a logo, phrase, word, letter, sound, smell, picture, movement, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.

Examples of trade marks


Logo

Nike swoosh


Colour

Cadbury purple


Shape

Coca-Cola bottle

How do trade marks work?

Here's a quick video that explains what trade marks are and how they can protect your brand, products or services.

What are trade marks?

What are trade marks?

A trade mark legally protects your company’s unique brand, name of a product, or your services. It can help customers distinguish you from your competitors.

Trade marks can protect a logo, phrase, word, letter, sound, smell, picture, movement, aspect of packaging, or any combination of these.

But you can’t trade mark everything. There are certain words, phrases and images that can't be trade marked, or can only be registered under special circumstances. Your trade mark registration lasts up to 10 years before it needs to be renewed, which can be done indefinitely.

If your trade mark is registered, you’ll receive a business asset which becomes more valuable as your business becomes more successful, the legal right to place the registered trade mark symbol next to your trade mark, exclusive rights to use your trade mark in Australia, the ability to legally deter others from using your trade mark, and the ability to sell or license it for others.

One thing to keep in mind is that an Australian trade mark only gives you protection in Australia. If you want protection in other countries, you’ll need to apply for it there.

Want to learn more, including how to apply? Check out our trade marks page.

Common mistakes to avoid

  • Assuming that registering your business name gives you exclusive rights to it

    If you run a business in Australia and don't trade under your own name, you'll need to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). However, this won't stop others from using your business name. If you want exclusive rights to your business name, you need a trade mark.

  • Thinking that registering a website domain gives you exclusive rights to that name

    When you register a domain name, you secure an internet address (website URL) for customers to visit. This doesn't stop others from using your business name.

    For example, Ben's business, Threads & Treads, sells t-shirts and sneakers. He registers the domain name: www.threadsandtreads.com. To stop others from using his business name, Ben needs to apply for a trade mark.

  • Trying to trade mark commonly used terms, phrases or images

    Some words, phrases or images can't be trade marked. That's because they're common words that should be available for everyone to use. For example: 'warm' for heaters or 'ultra white' for paper. If your business name is made up of commonly used terms or phrases, it may not be able to be trade marked.

5 benefits of registering a trade mark

Registering your trade mark gives you:

  1. A business asset. The more successful your business becomes, the more valuable your trade mark becomes
  2. The legal right to place the ® symbol next to your trade mark
  3. Exclusive rights to use your trade mark in Australia
  4. The ability to legally deter others from using your trade mark
  5. The ability to sell your trade mark, or license it for others to use.