What's in a Trademark?

Before you invest your cash into a Canadian franchise, you've got a lot of do. You need to read all the documentation, speak the franchisor and go through the entire process. One area that is sometimes overlooked in the shuffle is the trademark, which needs to be considered as well. These unique intellectual property pieces are valuable assets that play a significant role in every franchise brand. If you don't know exactly what a trademark is or why you should care, now is the time to learn more.


Trademarks in brief


A trademark is usually a distinct tagline, design, slogan, logo or name. The mark sets your brand apart from your competitors and is often how the public is able to identity your brand, which ensures people they are getting the real deal and not a cheap knockoff. Once your brand's trademarks are registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, only your brand and those authorized by it, such as franchisees, may use the trademark in Canada. If another business tries to use the registered mark or something ruled to be very similar, your brand can legally fight to protect it and stop the unauthorized use.


Be aware of a trademark's status


As long as your franchisor has done everything required to register the trademark, it's protected and should be licensed by them to use. However, if you are left with unregistered trademarks from a franchisor, it can potentially pose quite a challenge. The registration is what gives the franchisor the legal grounds to fight businesses and/or scam artists from continually using those marks in a way that could trick a consumer into thinking it's from your franchisor. Without that registration, you could be facing trademarks that are diluted - which means they have less value than they would have if they were protected - or useless because they are being used by so many other businesses.


Trademark status is something to give extra attention to if you are joining a system that is not based in Canada, such as from the US. Sometimes, companies in other countries can't register their usual trademarks in Canada for a legal reason - for example, something similar has already been registered before by someone else - or they simply fail to register properly.


The visuals or catchphrase that the public associates with your brand are valuable, so make sure you know what you are getting when it comes to trademarks before you join a franchise.