Trademarks for Your Business

register-your-trademarkProtect your business by registering proprietary names as trademarks.

If you want to protect the unique name of your business, website or domain name, logo, product or service name, or company slogan, you may wish to apply for a trademark.

What Is a Trademark?

According to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office:

“A trademark is a combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that distinguishes one company’s goods or services from those of others in the marketplace. A trademark is unique. It is important to a company because over time, a trademark comes to stand not only for the actual goods and services you sell, but also for your company’s reputation and brand.”

There are three types of trademark registrations available to protect your business name:

1. A logo trademark: protects the design element that identifies the goods or services of a business or an individual. For example, an apple with a bite out of it immediately brings Apple computers to mind. A logo is protected by its unique artistic and layout elements.

A word trademark: is words used without any artistic design. (The artistic use of words is protected by copyright.) Company names, business names, names of organizations, product names, names of individuals, names of TV and radio shows can be registered. Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom- Zoom” is an identifiable phrase protected by trademark. Coca Cola is protected by trademark, both regarding the name itself, and the Spencerian script in which it is written. (This iconic logo was created by the company’s treasurer and secretary, Frank M. Robinson.)

2. If your business name: is important as an identifier to your product or service you can protect it by registering. If you do not register your name someone else can use it and force you to change your business name. If such were the case you would have to change everything in your business that contains the words registered by another party. There is no protection offered by placing a (™) beside the name.

3. Your Website domain name: can also be trademark registered. It should be noted that registering the domain name with an Internet registration authority does not provide any protection or right to use the domain name commercially in Canada.

Registration of a trademark can take 12 to 18 months.

Registration Takes Time

The registration process can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. But, once you register your trademark, it:

  1. is irrefutable proof that the trademark belongs to you
  2. provides you with exclusive rights to use the trademark in Canada for 15 years
  3. provides comfort that others cannot use a similar confusing trademark
  4. allows monitoring of infringements by others
  5. allows you to license the trademark and provide a boost to your company brand
  6. should be noted that, if you need to protect your trademark in other countries, it will be necessary to register the trademark in each country in which you wish protection

Trademarks are good for 15 years in Canada. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (the Canadian registry for trademarks) sends a notice when the 15-year period is about to expire. If the renewal application and payment are not received, the trademark is expunged. This means effectively that someone else could adopt your original logo.

Who Knew?

Interestingly, a trademarked name can become so entrenched in our culture that they become generic. For instance the following words are all trademarked but are used in our everyday conversations: Aspirin, Band-Aid, Jeep, Kleenex, Lycra, Popsicle, Taser, Vaseline, Velcro, Zipper.

It May Be Worth Your While

Because of the time, effort, expertise and cost required to register a trademark, owner-managers wishing to register a trademark should seek counsel. The Internet lists organizations willing to assist for a fee.


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* This article is reprinted from the newsletter Business Matters with the permission of the CPA Canada.