Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed pop culture aristocracy employ a potent yet affordable instrument to shield their brands from competitive threats, such as registered trade marks, from Taylor Swift’s vehement protection of her Evermore album name to the Minogue versus Jenner moniker war.
Trade branding appeals greatly to Taylor Swift. Everything from her quotes to song lyrics and album titles are protected by registered trade marks thanks to the singer’s numerous trademark filings both domestically and abroad.
The multi-Grammy winner most recently had to defend herself against a lawsuit brought by Utah-based Evermore Park, which claimed that Swift’s album Evermore and related items violated its trademark.
In 2020, the singer trademarked “Evermore,” and she responded with a countersuit. The charges were ultimately rejected by both parties, but not before Swift charged the theme park with copyright infringement for playing her songs without a permit.
Kylie Minogue, an Australian singing great and multi-platinum recording artist, filed a lawsuit to stop Jenner from using a trade mark to protect their shared name after reality TV star turned billionaire beauty entrepreneur Kylie Jenner tried to trademark her first name in the US. The artist claimed that she had long used her first name and that she already held several trade marks in the US that were connected to Kylie, in addition to the website www.kylie.com.
The case was ultimately settled out of court and Jenner’s application for trade mark was dismissed.
“I’ve spent a lifetime protecting my brand and building my brand so it was just something that had to be done,” the pop icon said.
But why should a startup consider this important?
When starting a firm, entrepreneurs frequently undervalue the need of safeguarding their reputation and brand. While a startup’s success depends on many different things, from having a novel idea to working hard and being committed, protecting that success and your brand’s reputation depends on maintaining ownership of your intellectual property (IP), which is where trade marks come into play.
A trade mark is a quick and easy way to protect your brand and gives you a legal way to take legal action if any copycats show up. Not just huge companies or famous people have registered trade marks.
With a registered trade mark, you may safeguard your company’s name, goods, and services for as little as $250. Since the registration process in Australia requires many months from the time of application, it’s crucial to think about trademark protection at the beginning of your company journey.
You are granted the only right to use a trademark in Australia in the products and services categories you choose by registering it with IP Australia. This straightforward action can help you avoid copycats and increase brand recognition.
Australian example: Katie Perry vs. Katy Perry
Katie Taylor, an Australian business entrepreneur, is one who can vouch for this first-hand. In 2008, Taylor took the wise choice to register her sustainable clothing line, Katie Perry, as a trade mark. The designer, who operates under her maiden name, first introduced her company in 2006 by setting up shop at Sydney market booths to offer eco-friendly loungewear.
Katy Perry, whose real name is Katheryn Hudson, launched her pop career at the same time with a string of singles like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Firework.”
Taylor received a cease-and-desist letter from the pop singer’s lawyers in the mail in 2009. She was told to quit conducting business using the Katie Perry identity.
At the time, the American singer had applied to register the name Katy Perry as a trademark in Australia because she was thinking of starting a clothing line to capitalise on her lucrative music career. The pop star’s lawyers said that Taylor’s brand was “misleading and deceptive” due to its similar moniker.
Taylor was fortunate to have a registered trade mark to safeguard her reputation.
What followed was what Taylor called a “David and Goliath Battle” on her blog. Taylor claimed the pop star of violating her registered trade mark by selling apparel during her Australian tours under the Katy Perry moniker. The dispute was resolved in the federal courts in April 2023.
Despite Taylor’s considerable legal clout, Justice Brigitte Markovic ruled in her favour, noting that the US pop star’s Kitty Purry company had been found to have violated the Australian designer Katie Perry’s registered trade mark by advertising and selling clothing items during the 2014 Australian tour. In addition to awarding extra damages to the Australian fashion designer, Markovic imposed an injunction preventing Kitty Purry from engaging in infringing conduct in the future.
Small businesses gained from the ruling, which highlights the significance of trademark registration.
Why you should think about trademark protection for your new business
Why then do only 4% of Australia’s small businesses and startups register their trade marks, despite the fact that doing so can offer crucial protection for your brand?
According to Lauren Stokoe, Venture Manager of IP Australia’s TM Checker, a free tool that lets you check the availability of a trade mark quickly and easily, the reluctance can be attributed to three factors: a lack of knowledge about what a trade mark is, the idea that applications are expensive and time-consuming, and finally, the belief that they have missed the deadline and the trade mark is no longer available.
According to Stokoe, every startup should have an IP strategy in its business plan. She advises entrepreneurs and business owners to conduct a free trademark check to determine their legal standing.
“It’s an important factor of the protection of your brand and of your ideas, so it really is about being informed, and maintaining your knowledge before it’s too late,” says Stokoe.