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Trademarks 101 for Small Business

A trademark is vital to your company’s identity - it can represent your brand’s image, reputation, and how you distinguish your small business from competitors.

Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Building a successful business brand takes ample hard work, time and money. It is therefore  important to legally protect your brand by registering your trademark. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office defines trademarks as “one or many words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others.”

Although it is possible to have an unregistered trademark, proper registration is beneficial when your business asserts a claim as no one else can use it. Registering your trademark provides legal proof of ownership.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when considering trademark registration:

  • Names/surnames, clearly descriptive marks, words in other languages, and words or designs that could be confused with a registered or pending trademark cannot be used

  • The entire process can take 12 to 18 months

  • The registration has to be renewed every 15 years

  • A mark registrable in Canada may not be registrable in the US, and vice versa

  • If your company is providing wares or services in association with a given trademark in other countries, registration in each of those countries should be considered

  • You and your company carry the responsibility of enforcing your trademark rights

In Canada, trademark application can be a costly, lengthy and complicated process. If your business is thriving, legal protection surrounding your brand and trademark is vital to a business’ long-term success. If you are considering trademark registration, the first step is to search The Canadian Trademarks Database, to see if your trademark is available. This service is free of charge.

This is a short introduction into the complicated world of trademarks. For a more comprehensive guide or to start this application process, please visit The Canadian Intellectual Property Office website.

About the Author: Michelle Pinchev