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What You Need to Know About Trademarks

september 07, 2021 | trademarks
New business owner selecting her trademarks

A trademark is a name, design, sound, moving image, mode of packaging, etc. that lets the public distinguish your service or product from someone else’s. For example, when you see the golden arches, you know it’s McDonald’s, and when you see the famous swoosh, you know it’s Nike. Those are examples of trademarks and they are protected by law. They also protect the consumer because when you shop at a big box store with a bullseye, you know it’s Target — but if there were 100 bullseye shops, you would not be sure.

What’s in a name?

So you’ve come up with the perfect name or logo for your company, and you’re wondering if you should trademark it. You do not have to register a trademark in Canada but it is in your benefit to do so. However, before we explain why registering a trademark is strongly recommended, let’s take a step back and talk about your company name.

You may have taken a lot of care (and time) coming up with your new company name, and you believe it’s the best: it describes your business, it’s catchy, and you can’t wait to design your website and create a product/service around it. It’s a winner, yes! But… can you legally use it? Maybe. Maybe not. This is the time to seek legal counsel — before you have invested in your new name. That way, a Canada-wide professional name search can be done to make sure that the perfect name you’ve chosen is not likely to infringe upon someone’s else perfect name. 

And speaking of perfect names. Many people believe that if you are able to incorporate your company under your name, registering for a trademark will be easy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

A proper search is key

Now, while you may have googled your company name, and perhaps even checked Canada’s trademark database (CIPO), and you received zero results on both, you are still very strongly advised to seek legal counsel and have a professional search done for you. There are multiple reasons for this, including: many companies have not registered their trademarks and are still protected; you don’t have to exactly match a name in order to infringe upon it (calling your soft drink company Bepsi, for example, would be a problem), and a lawyer can help assess if your name can be trademarked at all. Having a professional search conducted can save you a lot of time, heartache and money by knowing there may be a problem before you invest in your name or logo, and not afterwards.

Why trademark your company name?

Ok, so we’ll presume that your company name is original enough to be trademarked and that a professionally conducted search shows it’s not likely to infringe upon an existing trademark. Here’s why you should register your trademark even though you are not legally obliged to: A trademarked name is protected throughout Canada, not just near you. You will have the sole right to use it across Canada for 10 years and you can renew it every 10 years after that. Your trademark will appear in the official database showing you as its owner. It makes enforcing your rights easier. And it gives you priority rights in terms of applying in other jurisdictions, among other benefits.

This is important because although your company may start off small, in no time at all, you may expand into another province or across the whole country. You want to prevent someone else from setting up a similar business with a similar name because that would cause confusion among with public – and confusion is not good for your bottom line.

The take-away

It is strongly advised to have a lawyer by your side as you negotiate the process of trademarking a name, logo, etc., In addition, because a trademark registered in Canada is only protected in Canada, if you want to take on the world with your product or service, we can help you apply for trademarks in other countries. For information on the cost and details about what steps to take next, get in touch. We are here to help: www.legalshield.ca.

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