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Building a real estate business is hard work. Building a brand is even harder. But imagine doing all of that work, only to have your brand ripped out from under you?

Well, it’s exactly what happened to this real estate business – don’t make the same mistake these guys did…

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a way of identifying your business. A good trademark distinguishes your business from others.

Sometimes referred to as a brand, it can help your customers discern the quality of your product or service over that of your opposition.

It’s not just ‘a logo’. It can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, movement, aspect of packaging, or combination of these. A common misconception is that a trademark is the same thing as a registered business name, registered company name, domain name or even a design. It is not.

Why do I need a trademark?

To protect your business name from being used by someone else.

Registering a company name is not the same as a trademark. If you only register a company name but you don’t trademark that name, someone else may trademark your company name and you could be forced to change the name in which your business operates and all of your branding/marketing etc.

A trademark gives you exclusive rights to commercially use, license or sell the trademark. This means that no one else in Australia (or overseas – if you decide to get an international mark) can commercially use your trademark within the class of goods and services it’s registered under.

There is no legal requirement to register a trademark in order to use it. However, if someone else has already registered the same trademark as yours, they can take legal action against you if you infringe their IP rights.

How much does a trademark cost?

It depends. Some trademark applications can be very complex and in some cases will require the services of a trademark lawyer. But for most businesses lodging a trademark application, without the assistance of an IP professional/lawyer, we would recommend using IP Australia’s TM Headstart service. This service gives you an assessment of your trademark application and will help you identify any problems it may contain before you publicly file.

This service does cost extra but it may save you money in the long run, as trademark applications filed that contain errors are often rebuffed and applicants pay for those mistakes by having to re-file.

What’s the process of getting a trademark?

You can apply for a trademark through the IP Australia website.

Once you have submitted your trademark application, depending upon the complexity of the research involved, the trademark examiners at IP Australia can take up to three to four months to assess whether your application meets requirements under the Trade Mark Act 1995.

You can ask for an expedited examination if you will be seriously disadvantaged because of the time taken to process your applications. For example, there is court or legal action expected or underway, or if there are urgent commercial reasons such as pressing launch dates or issues with a competitor.

Your trademark is protected from your application filing date but the actual registration of your trademark in the Australian Trade Mark Search can take up to seven-and-a-half months, especially if the examination work required on your case is complex.

Once registered, the trademark is protected in all Australian states and territories for an initial period of 10 years. For international protection, you need to register your trademark in each country you want protection in.

It’s important that you use your trademark—other applicants can apply to have your trademark deregistered if you haven’t used it for more than three years.

Legal disclaimer:

The information contained in this article is for general guidance on matters of interest only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information contained in this article.

In no event will Stepps, its related partnerships or corporations, or the partners, agents or employees thereof be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this site or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

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