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Your logo represents your business. It provides a way for your customers to identify your business and the goods or services you sell or provide. Therefore, you should protect it where you can. This article will provide some background on this topic and explain whether you should register your business logo as a trade mark.

What is a Trade Mark?

Your logo will be a graphic or image that represents your business. Your logo trade mark can form one of your business’s most valuable intellectual property assets. You use your logo to indicate that your business is the source of the goods or services you provide. As such, your logo trade mark acts as a “badge of origin”, connecting your goods or services for your business.

For instance, say that you run a plumbing company. You can use your logo trade mark on your work vehicles or advertising to indicate your business as the provider of your plumbing services.

Trade marks can include various elements, such as:

  • words;
  • phrases;
  • labels;
  • shapes;
  • colours;
  • symbols; or
  • a combination of these.

No matter what makes up your logo, as long as it meets other requirements, you generally should be able to register and use it as a trade mark.

What Are the Benefits of Trade Mark Registration?

Notably, it is not mandatory to register your trade mark, and you can therefore use your logo to represent your business without formal registered trade mark rights. In some cases, your continued use and customer recognition of your logo can lead to unregistered trade mark rights forming naturally. However, without formal registration, you leave your logo vulnerable to several situations, including:

  • claims of trade mark infringement if it is identical or deceptively similar to another business’ registered logo trade mark;
  • a higher chance of counterfeiters and imitation of your logo;
  • fewer legal protections should someone use your logo without your consent; and
  • stricter requirements for proving that you own the intellectual property rights to your logo.

Consequently, there are numerous benefits to trade mark registration that can deal with these vulnerabilities. These include:

  • the exclusive right to use your trade mark throughout New Zealand;
  • the ability to commercialise and profit off of your trade mark;
  • the exclusive right to license or sell your trade mark to others for compensation;
  • restrictions on confusingly similar or identical trade marks being registered after yours;
  • use of the ® symbol to indicate your registered trade mark rights;
  • legal protection against those who would try to copy your branding;
  • the ability to pursue third parties for trade mark infringement;
  • gaining a formal trade mark registration that you can sell as an asset if you sell your overall business; and
  • a public record of your trade mark rights on the national trade marks register.

Should I Register a Trade Mark for My Business Logo?

Indeed, as mentioned above, you can still use your business logo without needing to register for official registered trade mark rights. However, you leave yourself open to potential vulnerabilities if you do so. Your business logo is a valuable asset, as it is how customers will recognise your business. Therefore, you should take appropriate steps to protect it where possible.

For example, say that a registered trade mark owner of a similar logo to yours comes to you claiming you have infringed on their rights by using your trade mark. Without registered trade mark rights, it can be much more challenging and expensive to defend yourself in this situation.

Notably, you can register trade marks that protect different identifiers and elements. Some of these identifiers are more significant for you than others. Your logo is one of these, depending on how you use it. If the loss of your logo would significantly negatively impact your business, it would be wise to protect it by registering it as a trade mark.

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

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How Can I Register a Trade Mark for My Business Logo?

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) manages trade mark registration nationwide. Therefore, you need to submit a trade mark application for your logo to them. They will consider your trade mark according to their evaluation criteria. Registering a trade mark for your business logo can be relatively straightforward, as long as you complete your application appropriately. This process includes:

  • completing a trade mark search for identical or similar logos to your own;
  • finalising the exact elements of your logo trade mark;
  • determining the correct owner of your logo trade mark;
  • specifying what goods or services you will provide under the trade mark;
  • getting advice from a trade mark specialist where necessary;
  • submitting your application through IPONZ’s online portal; and
  • dealing with any of their concerns or other objections where necessary.

Key Takeaways

A trade mark registration is a valuable business asset that can protect your unique logo. A logo is an important representation of your business, so it would be wise to consider registering it as a trade mark.

If you need help with obtaining a registered trade mark to protect your business logo, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a type of intellectual property protection that serves as a unique identifier for your business. Common examples include your business name or logo.

Should I register a trade mark?

Registering a trade mark grants you specific legal protections against those trying to copy important aspects of your brand. Therefore, registering your trade marks, such as your business name or logo, would be wise.

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