From paddock to plate – Branding your Beef to avoid risks

In the day to day operation of businesses, business owners often fail to consider the value of their name and the trade marks that they use in their business. Cattle producers may want to take steps to protect their trade marks so as to avoid costly disputes or problems involving the trade mark register. Brian Healey and Trent Taylor of Holding Redlich Lawyers share some useful tips.

Brands and beef

When you think of "brands" and the cattle industry, you may often think of the State-based laws which govern branding and earmarking of livestock. Mandatory legislative regimes for cattle branding operate under the Brands Act 1915 (Qld), Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 (Vic), Livestock Regulations 2009 (NT) and Stock (Identification and Movement) Act 1970 (WA). Livestock is also required to be identified in accordance with the National Livestock Identification System.

Branding products

Separately from complying with the above requirements, trade marks may be used with beef products. Trade Marks may be used to identify the producer, the property, the cattle breed, the origin of the cattle or the finishing process for the cattle. Consumers are becoming more interested in the product lifecycle from "paddock to plate".

By way of example, the register of trade marks in Australia identifies numerous trade marks including the words "BEEF" (189 in class 29 for meat products), "WAGYU" (24 registered and 11 pending, "GRAIN FED" (4 registered in class 29 and relating to beef); and "DROUGHTMASTER" (certification word made in class 31 for cattle and composite mark in class 31 for cattle)

The trade marks process

Trade marks do not need to be registered. But if they are, then this can save a lot of money – this is because:

  • The costs of enforcing an infringement of trade mark may be reduced – you do not have to prove use or reputation if a trade mark is registered;
  • The risk of a person registering a trade mark that is similar to your mark is reduced – the Examiner will not allow a mark to be registered which is substantially identical to your mark; and
  • If there are any trade marks already registers that the Examiner considers are like your proposed mark, then these will be identified for you.

As with all legal matters, prevention is often better than the cure – a small investment now may avoid an expensive exercise in the future.