Beginners Guide: How to Perform a Canada Trademark Search

Every year, we answer thousands of inquiries from owners of small and medium-sized businesses about Canada trademark searches. If you’re one of them, chances are, you’re thinking about starting a new business venture or launching a new product line. Trademark registration in Canada is essential to ensure that you’re able to compete in a marketplace that’s full of other vendors offering a product or service that might be similar to yours.

According to ISED, 51.1% of Canada’s gross domestic product comes from small and medium enterprises. These businesses generate hundreds of thousands of Canada trademark search requests every month with the help of commercial law firms. Small businesses also make up the majority – 97.9%  – of Canada’s employers, and many of them are looking to register new brand names, symbols, and logos that might set them apart from the pack.

A unique registered trademark is not only an excellent marketing tool but a cost-effective way of protecting your business from copycats and people who would like a piece of your intellectual property for free. It will help you build brand recognition, increase customer goodwill, and prevent competitors from capitalizing on your popularity while offering a different, and most of the time, inferior product.

There are millions of existing trademarks in Canada, so performing trademark searches may take a considerable amount of time and money on your own. If you’re in the middle of rebranding your business, conceptualizing a new product, or trying to come up with a catchy name for an old service, you should consider hiring a legal team who can speed up the process.

Trademark researchers who are familiar with the laws surrounding Canada trademark searches and registration can save you from countless infringement charges. They will help you build your brand image swiftly in whatever crowded marketplace you are trying to tap.

Why Bother Learning about Trademark Registration in Canada?

The Canadian SME market is brimming with marketing professionals who have brilliant ideas for the names of new brands, products, and services. However, most of the solutions their clients create will face stiff competition from other manufacturers and creators who might already have an established presence. If you’re a business owner, you have to make sure that you’re not infringing on the rights of other business owners and that you play fair even in a saturated market.

Using a logo, trademark, or business name that already belongs to someone else can create significant legal and financial liabilities for your business. For example, World Wrestling Entertainment was once the World Wrestling Federation or the WWF.

The World Wildlife Fund is also known as the WWF. Those three letters have been central to their branding for over 20 years before competing with the World Wrestling Federation.

The World Wildlife Fund didn’t want to associate their brand with the cartoon violence of wrestling, so when Titan Sports, the parent organization of the World Wrestling Federation, began printing banners with WWF branding, it led to a 13-year legal battle over trademark infringement in England. This back-and-forth cost both Titan Sports and the World Wildlife Fund millions of dollars. Ultimately, Titan Sports gave way to the World Wildlife Fund and changed its name to WWE.

If you’re trying to rebrand your business in Canada with a new symbol or slogan, or you want to change the way people remember your brand, a quick search in the Canadian Trademarks Database can save you a lot of money and pain. It also ensures that you have a strong mark of ownership that your customers won’t associate with registered and unregistered trademarks from other businesses, helping you maximize your marketing dollars.

Searching the Canadian Trademarks Database as Part of Trademark Registration

The easiest way to know if someone already owns the legal rights to your proposed trademark is by performing a search on the Canadian Trademarks Database. It’s a free resource from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and you can use it online or visit their physical location in Gatineau, Quebec.

The Canadian Trademarks Database contains the most up-to-date information on all the expired and registered trademarks in Canada. CIPO professionals update it weekly. The database has the complete history of most trademarked words and symbols that you see on Canadian billboards, TV, and online.

You can find the remaining lifespan and expiration date of all active trademarks in Canada on it. If a business registered a name or a symbol before the Trademark Act amendment on June 17, 2019, the owner of the trademark will retain legal rights for the next 15 years. Any trademark registered after that date has a lifespan of 10 years.

You can search for trademarks on CTD using three methods:

  • You can look up registrant names, trademarks names, and the type of goods and services they classify.
  • Use the advanced search function to view similar instances of your proposed trademark, such as cases where organizations use the heart symbol to express the word love nonverbally.
  • Search for trademarks that express similar ideas in English and French, similar to how Ocean Blue, a clothing company, has a nearly identical name to Oceanbleu, a catering service.

According to CIPO, if prospective customers see two different trademarks on two commodities, and they assume that they came from the same organization, that’s enough reason to predict future market confusion.

Common-Law Searches and US Trademark Searches

When creating a new trademark, it’s essential to cover all your bases. US trademark registration requires business owners to show that they’re using their registered trademark on a product, business line, or service before the government grants them their exclusive rights.

Canada trademark registration rules allow companies to register as many trademarks as they want under the amended Trademark Act, with unlimited chances for renewal. You can find many organizations in Canada with well-known names that are not on the CTD. Their names and symbols are known as Common Law Trademarks.

Say your family owns a jewelry store in your hometown that operates under a generic business name like Precious. Your parents have been running that shop for decades until a new jewelry store opens a few blocks away, also called Precious. Your clients associate the trustworthiness and cost-efficiency of your shop with the new one, and you begin losing business.

If Precious is not your registered trademark, you have to prove to CIPO that it is a common-law name associated with your business in your locality. You have to show that the second shop with the same name is opportunistically capitalizing on the goodwill and reputation your shop has been building for years.

Businesses with common law trademarks have limited rights and do not have protection on a national level. The government will only step in to make sure that no one else is not passing off similar goods and services under its name in its immediate vicinity. It’s always best to register a unique trademark for your logo, business name, and slogan after a trademark search.

A Canada Trademark Search Is Always a Wise Investment

Most businesses and marketing teams conduct trademark research in the early part of the conceptualization process. A trademark will determine how people will perceive your company, product, or service. If you’re planning to expand into other locations, it pays to have a trademark attorney research the common-law trademarks you need to avoid.

For many business owners, a Canada trademark search can seem like a long and arduous process. Most of them would much more willingly focus on income-generating activities. Hiring a Toronto IP lawyer can help you avoid problems in the trademark registration process.

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