Protecting Your Intellectual Property – Hints and Tips

Written by: The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

This article is the first in a series introducing you to the importance of intellectual property and how to protect your intellectual property. In this first article you will learn about trade marks and domain names.

Your brand can be the difference between success and failure. It will 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. As you start to work on your initial ideas, you should think about developing and securing all these aspects of your brand.

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

  • If you use a registered 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 and similar to the registered 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 IP Australia’s Trade Mark Assist tool or for a small fee, you can use IP Australia’s TM Headstart service to get one of the trade mark examination team to do a qualified search and provide you with a report to help you decide. If the search is clear (i.e. no other trade marks 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 the most powerful option. Whether you need to apply for protection for both your trade mark and 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 includes in a domain name. A trade mark registration may also protect your domain name if your domain name contains your trade mark.

The advantage of securing a trade mark registration which also protects your domain name is the ability to stop similar domain names competing in your space. To do this 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.

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