Brandsmith & Co

Demystifying Brand Protection in Australia: Business Names vs. Trade Marks

In Australia, the terms “business name” and “trade mark” are often used interchangeably, causing confusion about brand ownership and protection. This misconception can particularly affect small business owners and startups who may mistakenly assume that registering their business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) automatically grants them full ownership of that name. During the initial stages of their business journey, entrepreneurs might seek guidance from accountants or other professionals to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) or establish a company entity. However, they may not fully grasp the critical role that intellectual property plays in safeguarding intellectual property or owning a brand. By gaining a clear understanding of the distinction between business name registration and trade mark protection, business owners can secure their brand’s copyright and ensure trade mark protection.

Here are some key points to consider when examining the differences between registering a business name with ASIC and obtaining trade mark protection:

  • Registering a business name in Australia through ASIC primarily serves the purpose of identifying the name under which your business operates. This registration is a legal requirement often used when a business adopts a trading name different from the owner’s name.
  • It’s important to recognize that registering a business name with ASIC does not grant exclusive rights in that name. This means that someone else who has registered the name as a trade mark can still use it. Furthermore, business name registration does not offer protection for other vital elements of your brand, such as logos, slogans, or marketing materials.
  • Business name registration with ASIC typically requires renewal every one or three years, depending on the registration fee paid. In contrast, registering a trade mark with IP Australia provides legal protection for ten years from the filing date and can be renewed indefinitely.
  • A registered trade mark in Australia provides exclusive rights to use that name within the country in connection with the goods and services offered. Moreover, for businesses with international operations and clientele, a registered trade mark is often the first step towards securing brand recognition in foreign markets, especially in the case of online businesses catering to a global audience.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for entrepreneurs seeking to protect their brand’s identity and maintain a competitive edge in the market. By prioritising trade mark registration alongside business name registration, businesses can ensure comprehensive protection of their brand assets, paving the way for sustained growth and success.

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