Trade marks are important for any business. Even if you have a business name that is unique and only affiliated with your business, you should still protect the name or mark. The same goes for any logo or tagline for your business. The sooner the better, as time is of the essence with Trademark applications.
In Australia, trade marks are governed by IP Australia, the national IP institution which provides the Australian Trade Mark Online Search System (ATMOSS) for trade mark applicants, accessible from their online website.
This is a public register of trademarks in Australia, which make thousands of trade marks available for a particular trademark lookup of trade mark check.
The great thing is that all of it is open source. However, there are some tricks we’ve learned over many years and ultimately the search of the register only provides an indication of a conflict.
There are many other considerations about trade marks and whether they are capable of being registered or likely to be needed by other traders. However, here are some tips on trademark searches.
Table of Contents
- What Does a Trade Mark Search Show You and Why Use It Before Filing a Trade Mark Application?
- 1. What to Search For?
- 2. How to Search?
- 3. Search Using Variations of Names/Words
- 4. Understand the Trade Mark Classes
- 5. Create an Account with IP Australia
- 6. Draw Little To No Inspiration From Other Trademarks, Especially In The Same Class
- 7. Do Not Solely Rely On ATMOSS In Lieu Of Legal Advice
- Final Thought
What Does a Trade Mark Search Show You and Why Use It Before Filing a Trade Mark Application?
The search tool allows users to view the entire Australian registry of trade mark names, logos, taglines, designs, and more that business owners and companies have registered, are in the process of registering, have not registered, or have failed to re-register in Australia.
It shows them whether it has been applied for in the past, at what stage it is in the trademark examination process, and whether it is accepted and/or advertised for a period of 2 months until it is registered. It will also show if it is opposed, by what legal entity it is opposed, and at what stage it is in that process.
Upon searching for a word in the search bar, the system will produce an entire list of all related marks to the word or phrase you input.
The reasons you may use this search are to check to see if there are registered marks or pending marks which resemble and could conflict with your idea or current business name, logo tagline etc. that is unregistered.
As it shows the particular classes of goods and/or services, even related classes of those goods or services so you can dig deep to see whether there are any potential conflicts currently on the register, in order to form a view about whether or not those pre-exisiting marks are likely to prevent a barrier to your trademark registration.
Here are 7 tips on trade mark searches.
1. What to Search For?
Text, images, numbers, names of owners, registry numbers or ranges of registry numbers, and owners’ names, companies, or business numbers can all be searched.
Searching up text can produce a vast range of results of business names, combination logos using text, and any marks with relevance to the searched word(s). Images can include favicons, logos, and combination logos as well.
If you wish to search a range of trade mark registry numbers, you can do so by inputting a dash between an existing range of trade mark registration numbers (e.g. 1200000 – 1200200) or you can search for a specific registration number.
You can also look up a particular ABN or company name as an owner of the trademark. You may wish to do this to examine a competitor’s registered marks to avoid infringing their marks, by accidentally creating a similar logo for instance.
You can also see what your competitors are filing by way of trademarks to see if there’s anything sneaky they’re doing.
2. How to Search?
Users can either perform a quick search or an advanced search using the system. A quick search allows you to input simple text or numbers which will collect all relevant search results. You can upload a photo from your device to find similar results of logos and favicons also.
Typing in words related to an image you may wish to trade mark as a logo might be more limited than uploading an image. You may wish to trademark a logo of a lion and search for “Lion”. But not all relevant marks may appear in the search results, despite using the image of a lion.
In advanced searches, you can specify the image keywords distinctly from the actual mark or name keywords to get a refined search. This helps with accurately finding logos and business names that match the words you are searching for.
As an example, you may wish to register a trademark for a surfing instruction business and wish to use the image of a wave as your logo. Using the advanced search, you can check trademarks in a refined list of registered marks that use the word “surf” and that have a wave as their trademark logo.
3. Search Using Variations of Names/Words
To get a more accurate search with regards to the previous point, you can search variations of keywords allowing the system to produce more results.
If you are searching for “Lion”, it is recommended that you search variations of the word like “lion” or “lions”. Moreover, you can search language variations or slang variations like “lionz” or “liones”. This will help in discovering the full range of businesses that share a related mark.
4. Understand the Trade Mark Classes
Trade mark protection is provided by the class. If an existing mark is registered in one class, but yours would be in a different class, the mark would not necessarily infringe despite some similarity.
There are 45 different trade mark classes set out in Australia’s picklist. These classes cover industry sectors from industrial manufacturing to cosmetics.
If you are considering expanding your trade mark protection to other classes, you should consider the similarity of your unregistered mark to marks in other classes than just one. There are also related classes to consider, which trademark examiners will review when examining your trademark application.
For example, if you are a non-medical cosmetics business owner but wish to brand your own clothing merchandise using your registered mark for the cosmetics class (class 3), you run the risk of producing clothing with an unprotected and potentially infringing mark.
5. Create an Account with IP Australia
By creating an account with IP Australia, you can save searches after going off the website and returning to it days or weeks later. This can be useful if you are trying to compile a large list of comparatively similar marks to avoid replicating.
You can register an account with IP Australia to access Australian trade mark search saves, as well as manage and review IP rights, registrations, and more.
6. Draw Little To No Inspiration From Other Trademarks, Especially In The Same Class
The expression good artists copy, great artists steal, is certainly true of the art world but is not tolerated in the world of trademarks.
If you are thinking of using ATMOSS as an inspiration catalog, you should be mindful that your business can infringe on other registered trademarks in the same class.
Copying also defeats the purpose behind trademarking, which is to honor and protect innovation and creativity in business and more widely in society. Check trademarks to protect your own ideas, not to take others.
7. Do Not Solely Rely On ATMOSS In Lieu Of Legal Advice
ATMOSS does not guarantee that the results they provide will help you not infringe other trademarks. The search results from a trademark check are interpreted by the user and judged based on their opinion of whether a mark would potentially infringe on an existing mark.
For guidance with trade marks and avoiding trademark infringement, you can speak with an expert solicitor. The process appears to be fairly straightforward, however, there are some potholes to watch out for.
The expert solicitor will be happy to have a chat with you and provide you with some prospects of success for your potential application. Best to “measure twice and cut once”, otherwise you could be throwing your money down the drain.
At the end of the day, trademarks are a really important piece of intellectual property.
If you are going to perform a trade mark search in Australia, ensure that when you search trade marks, you do a trademark lookup within Australia, as other jurisdictions do not apply.
Using the ATMOSS tool you can conduct a free trade mark search to check if your trade mark idea or unregistered business name, logo, tagline, etc is similarly used or directly taken. You can read more about free trade mark search FAQs here.