2018’s trademark news taught us a thing or two about protecting our business’ intellectual property. Let’s refresh those lessons with this roundup.
Misappropriating brands and products has never been easier with e-commerce and online sales technologies. Thankfully, online retail giants like Amazon are paving the way to protect vendors with registered trademarks. The Amazon Brand Registry, in particular, restricts other vendors from copying and selling products with other sellers’ registered trademarks. The efforts of big entities to protect brands against identity theft means that in order for businesses to be helped, they first have to register their trademark.
Companies can learn a lot from Apple’s trademarking tactics. As one of the biggest names across the globe, Apple has to double its efforts in protecting its products and brands.
Prior to launching a new line, the tech giant files for a trademark in countries whose system is not accessible through an online database. This prevents rivals from searching trademark offices around the world, keeping their new line a secret until it is unveiled. The tactic also takes advantage of US Trademark Act. Section 44, allowing businesses to register their trademark in a country before filing for registration in the US.
The Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement poses challenges and opportunities for Australia’s businesses. Australia’s businesses may be able to expand its market but they will have to find means to protect their brand internationally. Another pressing concern is that European farmers expect Australian farmers to follow the EU’s law on using geographical indicators such as parmesan and feta. Businesses who wish to penetrate the European market may need to rebrand, dropping key terms from their labels and secure global trademark registrations.
The impetus for start-ups to carve out a distinct identity is great. This, however, leads them to commit grave trademark mistakes that either leave them unprotected from brand identity theft or makes them liable for infringement issues. Just some of those grave mistakes are: failing to check if an aspect in their brand is a registered trademark; trademarking overly generic brand descriptors; assuming that having the ™ symbol is sufficient to protect the brand name; failing to assign trademark ownership properly and assuming that the trademark protects all goods or services.
Is it considered a trademark infringement if you use a trademarked term on Google AdWords?
The battle between Australia’s online shopping pioneers Catch Group and Kogan raised this question once again when Catch Group filed a complaint against Kogan for using the term ‘catch’ in its AdWords campaign. The court still does not have a verdict but the case reinforces one thing we already know: the best way to protect your trademarks is to have them registered. Like Amazon, Google is now protecting trademark owners allowing them to submit a dissatisfaction notice if someone uses their trademark in an ad’s text. Plus, provisions from the Trademarks Act and Australian Consumer Law give businesses more layers of protection.
Applying for a trademark could mean either success or shut down for your business. Many business owners have their business name registered, build their business then discover much later that their name is trademarked by another entity. When escalated to the court, these business owners often find themselves needing to change their brand and paying for damages. If the infringement is sentenced as a crime, the court can order a six-figure fine or jail sentences.
Great British Menu Chef James Cochran found that he could no longer use his own name for business because his former employer trademarked the James Cochran name. The chef left his self-named restaurant James Cochran EC3 in April and discovered in August that his former employer Rayuela Limited is selling ‘James Cochran branded’ dishes. The parties then got into a row on Twitter, revealing disagreement between James and his employer prior to his resignation. Sadly for James, as his former employer formally registered the trademark, the company can profit from his name even if he is no longer affiliated with them.
Online trademark registration companies have been popping up, offering easy solutions for companies to have their brand trademarked. Many of these companies, however, are scammers leaving businesses unprotected and at risk of infringement lawsuits.
There is also a rising number of business owners trying to DIY their trademark registration. Not familiar with the complexities of the process, owners find themselves spending more time and money on registration.
Overall, 2018 has shown us that despite the opportunities they provide, technology and globalisation creates challenges for businesses in protecting their brands. As legislation and tech companies policies are still adapting to changes, business owners must be more vigilant in protecting their brands.
Save yourself time, money, and energy, and work with Pinnacle TMS. We have extensive experience in helping our clients protect their brands in Australia and overseas. Contact us today for a consultation.