Are Logos Protected by Copyright? Or Trade Marks?
Branding items like logos are often the most valuable assets your business owns. These unique identifiers help customers distinguish your products and services, allowing you to build a reputation that has a tangible impact on your bottom line. If you want to take full advantage of the power of logos, it’s important to invest in the right forms of IP protection. When it comes to branding we’re often asked “Are Logos Protected by Copyright? Or Trade Marks?” In this article we’re going to clear up the difference between the two forms of protection and find out which one is more effective in protecting your business, branding and intellectual property.
What Is a Trade Mark?
A trade mark is a form of intellectual property protection which covers identifying signs that can be applied to a company’s products and services. Trade marks legally protect valuable branding IP and make it easier for customers to distinguish your products from others on the market. Trade marks can be used to protect a logo, phrase, word, letter, colour, sound, smell, picture, movement, packaging or any combination of these things.
Customers associate your products and services with your branding. This means a logo can hold substantial value in the form of goodwill. Unfortunately, competitors may be tempted to use your branding so they can benefit from your reputation. This is a major concern, as unauthorised use of your branding can damage your business. Registering logos and other branding as trade marks grants you the exclusive right to use those elements. It also provides the right to initiate legal proceedings against competitors that infringe your trade mark.
What Is Copyright?
In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 provides automatic copyright protection for original creative works. Copyright protects the original way an idea is expressed – rather than the idea itself – which can includes forms like:
- Written words and literary works
- Visual images and drawings
- Musical works and compositions
- Moving images
- Sound recordings
This means logos created in Australia typically receive automatic copyright protection as a visual image. The only qualifying factor is that the logo must be an “original” expression to receive copyright protection.
Are Logos Protected by Copyright? Or Trade Marks?
In Australia, logos can be protected by copyright and a trade mark. Both forms of intellectual property protection can be applied to unique company logos, granting a company the exclusive use of its branding elements. This is key to maintaining your company’s reputation and preventing others from profiting off the goodwill of your brand.
Copyright and trade marks play different roles when it comes to branding elements such as logos. A trade mark provides more robust protection, as it also extends to deceptively similar logos, and is more desirable for brands that want to prevent others from using their identifying marks without permission. However, unlike copyright, a trade mark is not automatically granted, so a company needs to register these unique identifiers before it can prevent others from using them.
How to Register a Logo as a Trade Mark in Australia
Registering a trade mark is a simple, affordable and effective way to protect your brand’s most valuable assets. To register a trade mark in Australia you need to:
- Determine the owner of the trade mark. The owner can be any legal entity, such as an individual or company, but cannot be a trust.
- Conduct a trade mark search. All trade marks must be unique in relation to the goods and/or services to which they apply. This can be determined by performing a search of existing registrations. Trade marks are complex though, so it’s worth asking a professional IP attorney to conduct a trade mark search to ensure your branding is eligible.
- Gather documentation. You should ideally gather documentation showing ownership of the trade mark, particularly if it has changed hands. You will also need a representation of your trade mark (such as an image), and a list of the goods and/or services in relation to which you will use your trade mark.
- File your application. Trade mark applications are lodged with IP Australia through their online services. While you can do this yourself in theory, there are many pitfalls and we recommend engaging a trade marks attorney to take care of the application on your behalf.
- Receive your outcome. IP Australia will examine your application and let you know whether there are any objections. If no objections are raised, or all objections are overcome, your trade mark will be accepted for registration and the opposition period will begin.
- Trade mark registration. If no opposition to the registration of your trade mark is made, your trade mark will proceed to registration, which provides 10 years of protection before it needs to be renewed.
Protect Your Most Valuable Branding Assets with Kings!
Staying competitive as a business is more challenging than ever. Expanding marketplaces and the rise of globalisation means consumers have unlimited choice. If you want to stand out from the crowd, a strong reputation and recognisable branding are the best tools you have, and it’s important to protect that IP with help from Kings! Kings Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys is an independent firm based in Australia. Our team includes experienced trade marks attorneys who can help you protect your most precious ideas, branding and logos, ensuring you stay a step ahead of your competitors. Talk to us today to find out more about protecting, prosecuting or enforcing your trade marks in Australia!