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Publications / Food and Agribusiness

11 Apr 12
Branding your beef

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By Brett Heading (Partner) and Sarah North (Lawyer)

Intellectual property is an extremely valuable asset but its importance in the agricultural industry, particularly for cattle producers, does not always get the attention it deserves.  Brett Heading and Sarah North outline the intricacies of this often over-looked issue.

Cattle producers who intend to brand or earmark stock in Queensland must first register the brand or earmark with the Queensland Brands Office.  All cattle of 100kg or more live weight must bear a registered brand before being sold in Queensland.  Amongst other things, registering the brand denotes stock ownership.  It does not, however, confer exclusive ownership for ancillary goods and services provided under the business name associated with the brand, such as transportation services, cattle breeding and the sale of meat. 

The same applies to the registration of business names, company names and domain names.  Business and company name registrations are no more than legal requirements and registration does not give the owner any exclusive ownership as such to the name.  Similarly, registration of a domain name does not give exclusive rights to that name. 

To have a proprietary form of intellectual property which grants exclusive ownership rights in a business name or brand, you must have a registered trade mark.  Trade mark protection is the most effective way to protect the business names, brands and ‘get up’ of businesses, and ensures that money and time invested in a business is well preserved.

Cattle producers should ensure that their business names, brands, logos and designs relevant to its business operations as a whole are identified and if possible, registered as trade marks.  Good examples include AACo’s ‘bullhorn’ logo and ‘1824’ name.  In Australia, trade mark registration grants an owner the exclusive right to use or authorise the use of the trade mark for the goods and services claimed under the trade mark, for ongoing renewable periods of 10 years, as well as bring an action for infringement. 

Cattle producers should also ensure that the name under which they are trading in Queensland is registered as a business name or that they trade under their full company name.  At present, business names are registered on a state by state basis and trading under an unregistered business name in Queensland can carry penalties, such as a fine.  The nationalisation of business names (effective 28 May 2012) makes it even more important to get your business name on the register now to avoid any potential conflict and expense later on.

Ideally domain names should also be registered for your business name.  Domain names are registered on a ‘first come first serve’ basis and can be difficult and often costly to obtain once they have been registered by a third party.

By taking these measures cattle producers will maximise the value of their intellectual property and better manage the risks involved in what is being seen as an increasingly competitive market.

 

Focus covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. Focus is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.

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