Canada: IP: Social Media Series-Brand Protection

Copyright 2010, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Intellectual Property: Social Media Series-Brand Protection, September 2010

Communication on Web Goes 2.0 Ways

Moving Up to Web 2.0

The initial embodiment of the Internet was a one-way medium comprising static websites and search engines in which a user surfed from one website to another, often through the use of links. This Web 1.0 phase of the Internet enabled broadcast, point-to-point, and hub-and-spoke communication. Most of Web 1.0 can be characterized as a one-way street, with the user simply consuming content provided to him or her.

The current Web 2.0 phase of Internet activity is more dynamic and interactive, combining sources of content with increased functionality. This collaborative approach is not new on the Internet but has been greatly facilitated and expanded through new platforms. The creation and posting of material online is as much a part of the user's experience as the locating and viewing of it.

Users and content providers are now on a two-way street. Web 2.0, and particularly social media, allow user participation and interaction as content can be contributed to and edited by the author and the audience – users become creators and distributors of the message. Open communication, collaboration and the sharing and re-use of web content are key features.

Key components of the Web 2.0 environment are social media and user-generated content (UGC). UGC is content created by Internet users outside of professional practices and provided to a website on which it is published by someone other than the operator of the website. UGC may be entirely original to a user, may be obtained by a user from a third-party source without any original contribution, or may be a combination of remixed, or mashed up, content.

The widespread and increasing popularity of Web 2.0 has led many businesses and other organizations to utilize UGC on their own websites and on the social media websites of others. Websites that host or enable the creation and distribution of UGC include blogs, filesharing sites, wikis, social networking sites, aggregation sites and virtual worlds.

Types of Social Media

Social media can take many forms and are generally grouped into several categories, including blogs and microblogs, content communities and file-sharing sites, wikis and other collaborative projects, social networking sites, and virtual communities, including virtual game worlds.

A "blog", or "web log", is an interactive website, or part of a website, where users can easily post information, opinions, graphics and links to other websites on an ongoing basis. A blog is essentially an electronic medium for immediate citizen journalism but is also used increasingly by traditional journalists.

A blog may be external, accessible by the public or a segment thereof, or internal to an organization. Many businesses operate blogs, for purposes like customer feedback and contest submissions. TWITTER is a "microblog" social networking site through which users may send "tweet" communications of no more than 140 characters to "followers".

A "file-sharing site" is an example of a content community which provides and receives digital files over a network, usually through a peer-to-peer model, where the files are stored and served by user's personal computers. The most prominent example is YOUTUBE, on which users share multimedia UGC.

A "wiki" is a collaborative website which can be edited directly by anyone with access to it, such as the WIKIPEDIA online encyclopaedia. Wikis are increasingly used to engage contributors so they visit the website and view advertising thereon, such as ANCESTRY.COM, or to facilitate co-operation among businesses, including product development and marketing, like QUIRKY.COM.

A social networking site is a website whose primary purpose is networking among users, especially those who share common interests. The most prominent ones are FACEBOOK, MYSPACE and, in the business community, LINKEDIN. Some sites combine the functionality of social networking with other aspects of social media. For example, TUMBLR combines social networking with blogs. There are numerous other large regional, linguistic, subject matter and demographicfocused social networking sites. Increasingly, these sites are used by advertisers to reach users.

An "aggregation site" or a "social bookmarking site" gathers, links to and indexes content by themes based upon user recommendations, coupled with a social network to share content. Examples include DIGG and STUMBLEUPON.

Virtual worlds are three-dimensional simulated environments comprising content from both the operator and users. They permit multiple users to participate at once and in real time to communicate as well as develop and alter customized content. Some, such as SECOND LIFE, enable business functions, including the creation and sale of real estate, goods and services (see our May 2008 Blakes Bulletin on Information Technology).

Impact of Social Media

Despite widespread usage by individuals and businesses, as well as large amounts of media coverage, there is still skepticism about the value of social media. To many, social media are the purview of a small minority of young people, typically university students. Viewed through that prism, many question whether social media are a shift in communication or merely a passing fad. In order to understand how prevalent social media are, one only needs to look at the numbers.

FACEBOOK alone has over 500 million active users. In terms of sheer population, that is significantly more than the number of people who live in the United States, and behind only China and India.

Almost 50% of Canadians are on FACEBOOK and over 900,000 Canadians signed up in May 2010 alone. FACEBOOK is the second most visited site in the world, behind only GOOGLE. In Canada and the United States, FACEBOOK is visited more often than GOOGLE.

Over two million Canadians are on LINKEDIN. TWITTER is one of the top 10 most visited sites in Canada. In recent months, TWITTER has seen the number of "tweets" grow by an average of 16% per month.

The idea of social media as an arena of young people is not evidenced by the numbers in recent reports. The average age of a social network user is 37. 61% of FACEBOOK users are aged 35 or older and the average age of a TWITTER user is 39. LINKEDIN, with its business focus, has a predictably high average-user age of 44.

Not only is the scope of social media usage enormous, it is growing. A June 2010 study found that Americans spend nearly a quarter of their online time on social networking sites and blogs, a 43% increase from the previous year.

Businesses have also jumped on board the social media bandwagon. A recent report by the Retail Council of Canada indicated that just over two-thirds of Canadian retailers are using social media sites to reach their customers. Businesses have come to realize that consumers are increasingly turning to social media for product review. Over one-third of people who use social media have employed it as an outlet to rant, or rave, about a company or product. Nearly 50% of social media users say that reviews by friends or people they "follow" on social networking sites sway their interactions with companies or products.

The Social Media Series

Social media are not limited to the operators of sites like FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE. Businesses and other organizations increasingly host social media functionality on their own websites and participate in social media through the websites of others. With such participation comes a host of different legal risks and other issues which this series on social media considers. In this first instalment of the series, we consider trade-mark and branding issues on social media.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
13 Dec 2017, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Class actions across Canada continue to grow in volume and complexity, triggering significant policy and financial implications for businesses in Canada. With the Law Commission of Ontario’s recent announcement that it is reactivating its comprehensive review of class actions in Ontario, we may see important law reform on the horizon to evolve with the changing landscape.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions