A trademark is defined as a word, symbol or design used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace. It’s different from a trade name, which is essentially the name under which you conduct your business.
In certain circumstances, a trademark registration may be declared invalid because of the prior use of a trade name which is similar to your registered trademark. Ideally, you should conduct a search of existing trade names before filing a trademark application. To ensure a thorough search, you can hire a trademark agent to do the job. A list of agents is available at the Trade-mark database tutorial as well as guidance and advice on how to search their database.
Registered trademark versus unregistered
A registered trademark is one that is entered on the Trademarks Register. You are not actually required to register your trademark since using it for a certain length of time gives you common law ownership. Still, it is highly recommended. For example, registration gives you the exclusive right to use the mark across Canada for 15 years. It's also a valuable asset for business expansion through franchises.
You can file an application online.
Copyright gives an owner the sole right to copy his or her work or permit someone else to do so. You can register your copyright with CIPO.
A copyrighted work is an original literary, artistic, musical and/or dramatic work. Copyright usually lasts for the life of the author, plus another 50 years. By taking advantage of your copyright, you will have exclusive right to stop someone else from reproducing your work.
Registration with CIPO comes with advantages, such as:
- Giving you evidence that your copyrighted work is protected
- Proving ownership if a dispute arises in court
- Licensing or selling the copyrighted work to others
- Limiting the ways others use the copyrighted work to protect the value of your investment
An original piece of work is generally protected automatically by copyright the moment it is created. It is automatic for anyone living in Canada and extends to most other countries. Generally, the author of the work is the first owner of the copyright. However, if the author creates copyrighted work as part of a job, the employer is the owner, unless the employment contract states otherwise.
An industrial design can be a shape, configuration, pattern, ornament or any combination of these features. The protection lasts for 10 years maximum in Canada.
Nearly any product that catches your eye when you walk into a store has an element of industrial design to it. It is your product’s visual features that appeal to the eye. It provides your product with a competitive edge in the marketplace and sets you apart from your competition. Consider the following key points with respect to industrial design registration.
Is the design original? In order to be granted protection, your design must not closely resemble another existing design in the world. Industrial design registrations are intended to protect new designs, and not those that have already been in the marketplace. Consequently, once your design has been made public, you have one year to file for protection with CIPO.
Is the design aesthetic and not functional? An industrial design protection only covers the appearance of the article. The protection does not extend to how the product works, how it is made, or what materials it is made from.
It’s important to note that you must obtain protection in other countries separately. If you are looking to do business in other countries and want exclusive design rights in those countries, you may want to keep your design a secret until all design applications are submitted worldwide.
Organizations that promote innovation
Organizations like the Inno-centre help companies that wish to capitalize on technological innovation. The Centre provides coaching and business advice over a 2-year period to companies with an innovative product that has excellent growth potential. It also has its own business network for later stages of development and commercialization.
The National Research Council of Canada offers an Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) whose goal is to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses enhance their ability to innovate and thereby create profitable new products, processes or services.
For additional information about intellectual property, contact CIPO’s Client Service Centre or one of its regional business development officers.