What is a Trademark?

Trademark rights protect words, designs, numbers, two-dimensional or three-dimensional forms, sounds or colours used to distinguish the products or services of a company from those of others in the marketplace. Almost every company that operates a business uses a trademark of one kind or another to identify its products or services.

Trademark registrations are national in scope and a trademark registration in Canada gives the owner the exclusive right to use the mark throughout Canada in association with the wares and/or services covered by the registration.  A Canadian trademark registration is valid for 15 years and is renewable for further 15 year periods. Protection in foreign countries must be applied for separately. Trademarks should not be confused with trade names. A trade name, or business name, is registered with the relevant provincial authorities and simply enables the public to identify a company and its business as a whole. Words can be used interchangeably as both a trademark and a trade name. Use as a trademark will depend on the context of its use. Consulting a registered trademark agent or trademark lawyer is recommended. For more information on what a trademark agent can do for you, click here.

Consultation with a registered trademark agent or trademark lawyer is also recommended before starting to use a trademark in the marketplace. Regardless of whether you plan to register, it is always prudent to conduct a clearance search to determine whether the mark is available . If the search results are clear and the trademark is capable of being registered, then obtaining a federal trademark registration will increase your legal rights in the trademark. The trademark's relative strength or weakness will also affect the scope of protection it may receive.

If your business involves licensing the use of your trademarks to others, it is vital that you consult with a registered trademark agent or trademark lawyer to ensure that you are properly protected by a trademark registration, and that the use is properly licensed. A registered trademark agent or trademark lawyer will also advise you as to the maintenance and protection of your trademark which must be properly used at all times to remain distinctive.