Whether you’re an established or up-and-coming business, particularly in the fast moving consumer goods industry, your brand is often your most valuable asset. It’s the hallmark of your product’s quality, origin and value proposition. It’s what sets you apart from the many other products in the marketplace.

The coming of the new year is a timely reminder to set new goals for 2017. A useful resolution to add to your list is to review your trade mark portfolio. Here are some tips to successfully kick off the new year:

1. Review all trade marks used in your business and divide into three piles: ‘keep’, ‘review’ or throw away’.

2. For those trade marks in your ‘keep’ pile:

  • Check whether the mark is the subject of a trade mark application or registration on the IP Australia website, www.ipaustralia.gov.au. If it is, ensure your registration is valid or your application is alive and note any deadlines for renewal or other action.
  • Ensure the application/registration is in the name of the correct person or company (not a former owner or company name).
  • Conduct a sweep of the Internet and other relevant places (such as the weekend markets) for any unauthorised use of your trade mark by third parties. Seek legal advice if any unauthorised use is found.
  • If you’ve had issues with counterfeit products, consider lodging a Notice of Objection with the Australian Border Force (Customs).
  • Ensure your marks are used consistently throughout your business. If your logo has changed, seek advice on obtaining a new trade mark registration.
  • Make sure your marks are always used as an adjective and not a noun or a verb in marketing or advertising materials.
  • If the mark isn’t registered or it is the subject of a trade mark application, seek advice on registering your trade mark both in Australia and/or overseas.
  • If your mark is the subject of a licence, ensure the licensee is complying with its obligations under the licence agreement.

3. For those trade marks in your ‘review’ pile, consider the mark’s value and whether it remains a good fit for your business. Does it generate revenue, provide a competitive advantage, attract investment or add to the sale value of your business?

4. For those trade marks in your ‘throw away’ pile, consider whether there is any prospect of selling them to a third party. If not, remove them from your trade mark records.