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, colour, sound, smell, picture, movement, aspect of packaging or any combination of these.
Examples of trade marks
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?
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, colour, 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:
- A business asset. The more successful your business becomes, the more valuable your trade mark becomes
- The legal right to place the ® 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
- The ability to sell your trade mark, or license it for others to use.
How to use the trade mark and registered symbols
What does it mean?
The ™️ symbol stands for trade mark. While it symbolises that you're claiming trade mark rights, it doesn't necessarily mean that the rights exist, or are registrable or enforceable.
It can be used:
- On an unregistered trade mark as a way of notifying other traders that there may be legal rights associated with the trade mark
- In some cases, to help show that your mark is being used as a trade mark and not in some other context (e.g. descriptively). This can help you later in obtaining registration or in proving your claim to legal rights in the trade mark.
Do I have to use the symbol?
No, you don't have to use it.
Where should I place it?
You can place the ™️ symbol wherever you like, however, it's generally presented in superscript or subscript format on the right-hand side of the trade mark.
What does it mean?
The ® symbol stands for registered. It can only be used on registered trade marks under the Trade Marks Act 1995.
It's a way of:
- Notifying other traders that your trade mark is registered in Australia
- Indicating you have strong rights that prevent others from using the same or similar trade mark
- Deterring someone from infringing your IP.
Do I have to use the symbol?
No, you don't have to use it. You'll maintain your exclusive rights either way.
Where to place the symbol
You can place the ® symbol wherever you like however, it's generally presented in superscript or subscript format on the right-hand side of the trade mark.
The symbol should only be used next to the trade mark when it's used in its registered form. For example, if you've registered a logo trade mark that contains a word, you shouldn't use the ® symbol next to the word on its own.