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Can You Register A Font as a Trade Mark?

Before we delve into the discussion about whether a font can or can’t be registered as a trade mark, let’s begin by setting some context for this topic.

A trade mark is a sign that is used as a way of identifying a product or service from another that is being traded in the same line of business or industry sector. A registered trade mark is a way of ensuring the owner of the trade mark has legal rights over the identifying features of a brand that distinguish it from others and it’s a way of protecting the business owner’s intellectual property.

What can be registered as a trade mark?

Many different things are considered trade marks and can be registered as a trade mark, either on their own or as a composite in combination with one another.  These include:

  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Logos
  • Symbols
  • Images
  • Sounds
  • Shapes
  • Smells

Trade mark protection only applies to the mark in relation to the goods and/or services that the applicant has specified when filing their registration.

If I register my business name, is it protected by law?

It’s important to remember that a registered trade mark is not the same thing as a registered business name.

While it is a legal requirement to register a business name with ASIC, doing so does not provide the clear right to use that name and does not provide the right to stop others using similar names. While you are not mandated to register the name as a trade mark with IP Australia, doing so provides ownership of that name and the right to use it accordingly.

When registering it as a trade mark, the key requirement is that the name has to be sufficiently distinctive (not descriptive) and distinguishable from earlier filed trade marks for similar goods and/or services.

Can you register a font as a trade mark?

A font is essentially a graphical representation of text that may include various point sizes, symbols, colours or designs.  And since shapes and letters are types of trade marks, the natural assumption would be that a font could be too, right?

Not necessarily.  A font, on its own is not typically used as a way of distinguishing one trader’s goods/services from another’s so does not usually function as a trade mark. As with many things to do with trade marks, solutions aren’t always simple.  It’s a complex and constantly-evolving field and given how valuable intellectual property can be and how competitive the business landscape is, ensuring that a brand has watertight legal protection is an absolute must.  And that’s why specialist advice from a trade marks specialist is always recommended.

In theory a name of a font could be registered as trade marks where that name is distinctive rather than a generic term, and if the trader uses that name as a way of distinguishing the font as a product of theirs as opposed to another trader. However, typically we don’t see font names being registered as trade marks.  Rather, it is common to register a particular business name that uses a specific font type as a trade mark; not the font itself.

A business name can be registered as a trade mark in a defined font and it can also be registered without being restricted to any particular style.  However, if you have chosen a very distinctive font for your business name, you cannot assume that registration will automatically apply to that same business name being expressed in a different style.  Word marks (being the name without specific stylisation) are often stronger trade marks once registered in terms of protection against infringement. A trade mark should be used in the form that it was registered for.  So, if you intend to use a logo as well as your business name, you would generally register the two elements separately.

A final word

As mentioned earlier, the world of trade mark law is complex which is why it is always best to get specialist advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

MMW Trademark Services has a well-established reputation as a trade marks attorney firm in Australia and we service clients, both large and small, across a diverse range of industries.  We have a specific interest in providing affordable trade marks attorney services and we welcome you to get in touch for an initial chat at no cost to yourself to discuss your unique situation.

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