At the Box we’re big advocates of IP protection, and it regularly pains us to see businesses who don’t understand its importance and suffer for it. One recent example which is making headlines is the battle between Shan and Han’s Cafe.
The owner of Shan Cafe in Mandurah WA has been slapped with a court order by the franchise giant Han’s Cafe, ordering them to stop using the business name as it is in breach of their trademark.
The owner of Shan’s argues that his Cafe is nothing like Han’s, despite a similar style of food, and does not understand what threat he offers the international chain. Ironically, the owners of Shan’s worked at Han’s several years before hand, before being dismissed. Their new Shan’s Cafe is just down the road.
Whether Han is painted as the big corporate bad guy, or Shan the naive small business owner, the core of the matter is that small businesses all over the country lack the knowledge, resources and the understanding to check they’re not offending any trademarks before launching into a business.
This is something that makes us sad, annoyed and frustrated all at once. We’ve had business owners walk into our office with a fantastic business idea and a great business name. They’ve registered the business name in WA and the domain name and they’re off and running.
But this is where so many get into trouble. Business name and domain name protection is just not enough. We’ve had to tell several businesses to change their name immediately because they’re about to infringe on an existing trademark.
Before starting a business, you MUST consult the Australian Trademarks Register to ensure you’re not offending any existing trade mark. And if you’re just not sure, talk to a Trademark professional, or someone in marketing or branding that knows their stuff. The small fee you pay them for their opinion could save you thousands of dollars in business costs, and having your name, reputation and goodwill taken away as has happened to Shan.
And if you receive the ‘tick of approval’, we strongly recommend you enact the process of trademark registration yourself, right away.
Please be assured that we don’t think the onus and the blame should remain solely on the business owner. Information about this is hard to find, convoluted and confusing. There needs to be a much better and more streamlined system of registration, which we hope is just around the corner. In the meantime, we’re going to keep fighting the good fight as we hate to see business, big or small, have to start again.
If this is something you’d like to know about or you’d like some peace of mind that you’re not going to get a letter from a lawyer, talk to us today. We can give you some professional and reliable advice, and put your mind at ease.