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Trade marks: power in the brand

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Many not-for-profits (NFPs) have built their brand through years of development, promotion and work, while others have developed a new brand for a new offering. Whichever the case, wouldn’t you be annoyed if another organisation used that name or logo to copy you?

Brands are extremely valuable. Research by the Salvation Army reveals that their slogan “Thank God for the Salvos” has achieved 93 per cent aided awareness*. This is consistently the charity that people spontaneously name as the one to which they would most likely donate.

Changing environment

The issue of how to protect valuable branding against malicious or uninten-tional copying or emulation by others has increased in recent years, due to a number of factors:

  • The number of NFPs has increased
  • Large charities have established quasi-commercial operations to fund their other activities
  • The NFP sector is increasingly receiving funding to deliver human services on behalf of government
  • Churches are increasingly moving from a naming model according to saint, denomination, and location, to more innovative names
  • Commercial entities have moved into activities previously conducted mainly by charities or government.

Trade mark registration

The most effective means for protecting various branding elements is to register them as trade marks. Various forms of trade marks can be registered, from names and logos, to shapes (e.g. the Coke bottle), colours (e.g. the Chep blue on freight pallets), sounds (e.g. the music played by Mr Whippy ice cream trucks) and smells.

Registration provides Australia-wide protection, by giving the owner a legal remedy against another entity using a similar trade mark for similar activities.

Trade mark registration also provides a number of benefits that do not require enforcement through the courts, and are available at minimal or no cost:

  • The publicly-accessible trade marks register warns entities that want to adopt a new trade mark if a particular trade mark is already registered
  • Registration of a trademark is one of the eligibility criteria for the registration of a .com.au domain name
  • Registration of a trade mark allows the trade mark owner to access the trade mark protection policies of many websites.

For trade marks that are sufficiently distinctive, and not similar to any existing trade marks, the registration process can cost as little as $2,000. Whilst the application process is straightforward, the task of describing the list of goods and services to register can be tricky, particularly for the types of services that many NFPs offer.

*Source: http://salvos.org.au/taree/about-us/our-symbols.

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