Having a registered trademark can be a powerful way to safeguard your company’s competitive edge and future growth in a crowded market.
If you’re still deciding whether you need one, this post will help you understand the advantages of registering your company’s branding as a trademark.
A trademark is a type of intellectual property that allows you to protect your brand and can be anything that differentiates your product and services from similar products or services. This means that you can register as a trademark anything from smells through to sounds – provided they meet the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s (CIPO) registration criteria. Most commonly, however, people choose to register a word mark of their product name, service name, logo or catchphrase.
When you are deciding whether you should register your branding as a trademark, consider the scale of your ambitions. Are you servicing a small, local area like metro-Vancouver? Or are your business plans national or global in scale?
You might already have a trademark
The first thing you should know about trademarks is that you might already have one.
In Canada, unregistered trademarks are protected. This means that the branding you use to market your product or services may very well be considered an unregistered trademark. You can put ™ next to your logo or brand at anytime, to indicate that it is a trademark. You cannot, however, put ® next to your name unless you register with CIPO.
It is important that you understand that the protection given to unregistered trademarks is very limited, and is restricted to the geographical area that you operate your business in. Depending on the market you operate in and your plans for growth, such limited protection may not meet your needs. Registering your trademark will give you access to a better bundle of protection.
Advantages of registering your trademark
Business owners generally choose to register their trademark for the following 7 reasons:
1. Registration gives you the right to exclusive use
If you operate your business in a market where competition is high, you will know that the key to success is in marking your goods or services as different from your competitors.
The most important benefit that registering your trademark will give you is the right to the exclusive use of the registered trademark in relation to the goods and services you list on your application.
Your business name does not need to match what you trademark. However, if you are not incorporated and operate your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership, then registering your business-name as a trademark may be a way to protect it.
2. Registration gives you the presumption of ownership
The right to exclusive use becomes particularly important when disputes arise over a particular mark.
Once you register, you will be presumed to be the owner of the trademark. This means that if a competitor uses a trademark similar or identical to yours, you will be able to stop them. The same works in reverse. If a competitor tries to stop you from using a trademark, you will be able to rely on the presumption that you own the branding.
3. Protection will be Canada-wide
Registering your trademark will give you Canada-wide protection for your brand. Should you decide to relocate within Canada, or expand your business, your mark will be protected.
Furthermore, CIPO registration lasts for 15 years. That’s a long time to sleep easy knowing your brand has the strongest protection available.
4. Ability to licence in the future
Registering your trademark will mean that you have the ability to licence your trademark in the future, which you can use to make money and increase your brand’s popularity.
5. Protect your brand before you launch
Building up to launching your company? Filing an application with CIPO is the only way to protect your branding before you’re officially open for business.
You cannot finalize the registration of your trademark until you can prove that you are actively using your mark. You can, however, file your application with CIPO before this time to get the ball rolling. Seeing a registration application through from start to finish with CIPO can take anywhere from 15 to 18 months, if not more. So it makes sense to get your foot in the door early by lodging your application.
6. Registering a trademark is a relatively small investment that can mean serious savings down the line
If your business name becomes well-known in the future, picture what would happen if someone else tried to use your company’s reputation for their own benefit. It may be difficult to establish your rights relying only on an unregistered mark, and cost you significantly more to fight the unauthorized use.
It only costs $450 in filing fees to launch a successful trademark application with CIPO. This is a relatively small cost to protect what you have invested in putting together your branding and reputation – particularly compared to the costs that might be involved with losing the right to use your mark should someone else register your unregistered mark.
7. Deepen your brand and industry knowledge
Finally, thinking through whether your business needs to register its trademarks will not only give you a clearer vision of your business and your plans for the future – it will also give you a deeper understanding of your competition and the market that you operate in.
If you are considering registering your logo or business name as a trademark you should consider getting professional advice from a business lawyer.
Deciding what products and services to list on the application, and in whose name to register the trademark can be a delicate art. A business lawyer can help you build a strategy to register multiple related trademarks to optimize your brand protection or to register overseas if that is where your business plans are heading.