Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's a registered trademark and why do I want one?

When you buy a mobile phone, do you look for a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, or do you look for a BlackBerry?  When you buy a handbag, do you look for a leather handbag with zippers, or do you look for a red Gucci handbag?

What does a BlackBerry signify to you, that any other phone with a full QWERTY keyboard doesn't?  Encryption and security?  Push e-mail?  A sense of mature business-mindedness, of a no-nonsense worker getting things done?

What about the Gucci handbag?  What does it mean to you when you carry a Gucci handbag versus any other handbag?  A sense of style and elegance?  A display of wealth?  Or both?

As consumers, we all rely on brands as shorthand to tell us certain attributes about the product, and to tell the world certain attributes about us as users of the product. 

Your brand is one of the most important ways to identify and distinguish your product from the product of someone else.  It reassures your customers that the product they're purchasing came from you, and that because it came from you, they can expect the same quality and service and exude the same image that is customarily associated with you and your product.

Because your brand is such an important indicia, it's important to protect it from being misappropriated by others. One of the easiest ways to protect it is by registering it as a trademark.

Let me be clear - you don't have to register your brand as a trademark in order to use it on your product, service, or marketing materials.  Even without registration, you still have "common law" rights to your brand, as long as you're able to show in court that through your use of your brand through time, you've acquired a distinctive reputation in your geographic area.

However, there are distinct benefits to registering your brand as a trademark.

First, having a registered trademark makes pursuing an infringer for trademark infringement much easier.  You don't have to provide evidence in court that you actually have common law rights to your brand, because being the registered owner of a trademark registration is de facto proof that you have the exclusive rights to the use of the registered trademark.

Second, a registered trademark gives you the exclusive right to use it throughout Canada, whereas common law rights are restricted to the particular geographic area in which you've used your brand and have acquired a distinctive reputation.

In general, there are more advantages to registering a trademark than not.  Start protecting your most important intangible asset - your brand - by contacting me and registering it today.

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