I get a lot of questions regarding trademarks on a regular basis and definitely see many myths about them on the web. One thing I like to reiterate is if you put a lot of effort into your branding (which you should), you should consider getting your trademarks registered. This blog post will give you a little primer on trademarks as well as why you should register them and how to make sure they stay protected.
Of course, please take this as legal information and not legal advice. If you have any questions regarding trademarks, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are trademarks?
Trademarks are used to distinguish one company’s good and services from another’s. Trademarks can be composed of letters, words, sounds or designs. For instance, the Nike swoosh is a registered trademark, as it allows Nike, when associated with Nike’s goods, to distinguish itself from other sportswear companies.
What benefits am I getting from registering them?
While it is true that the use of a trademark, without registration, does confer certain rights (such as region-specific protection after demonstrating that the trademark has demonstrated sufficient goodwill or reputation), trademark registration provides you with the monopoly over your trademarks, in relation to your goods and services, for a period of 10 years (renewable) all over Canada. Registration also serves as evidence of ownership (which is quite useful when you are in a legal dispute).
Can I register anything?
Contrary to popular belief, not everything can be registered. You have to, amongst other things, make sure your brand isn’t descriptive. For instance, if you plan on using the phrase “heavy vase” in association with a vase you are selling, your brand will be considered descriptive and therefore not registrable. There are also other restrictions such as limitations in relation to place of origins. You can’t, for instance, use the name “Champagne” in relation with your bubbly drink if it does not come from that specific French region.
How can I make sure my trademarks stay protected?
1) Have a distinctive brand
Having a distinctive brand is something you should be thinking about during the very early stages of your brand development. Not only will it make your brand stronger in the minds of your consumer, but it will also make it a lot harder for a competitor to either use your trademark or one that is very similar.
2) Use it!
Believe it or not, if you do not keep using your trademark, you may lose your rights over it, so show it off on your packaging, goods, and more!
3) If you want to licence it, have a written agreement
If you plan on letting a third party use your trademark (to manufacture a new product for a collaboration, for instance), make sure you have a written licensing agreement that will allow you to have the control over the duration of the use, the region, and that will specifically mention that it is a licensing agreement and not a transfer of rights.
If you have any additional legal questions you would like to ask me regarding trademarks or if you’d like me to assist you with registering your trademarks, do not hesitate to send us an email at email@example.com or click on the link below to schedule a consultation.