Canada: Canada’s New Trademark Law And What It Means For Business

Last Updated: November 20 2014
Article by Lisa Statt Foy

Through sweeping legislation smuggled in by means of an omnibus budget bill, Canada's trademark registration regime will be changed more dramatically than at any time in the last 50 years.  The changes are giving trademark agents from coast-to-coast tremors: the technical aspects of the changes have not been clearly articulated, and those that have been communicated have left us with more questions than answers.  However, the key changes will likely positively impact Canadian businesses, especially those with a cross-border trade, and those who rely on the internet for key business functions.

International Registration Applications

The most exciting change is the accession to the Madrid Protocol and other international treaties.  The most significant alterations in our system were necessary to allow Canadian businesses to submit requests for "international" registrations to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) via our domestic trademark office, and thereby potentially obtain trademark rights in 91 countries by means of a single application.  U.S. businesses have enjoyed this privilege for over a decade: resulting in them easily securing broad international protection for their brands.  Our Canadian businesses could not use the protocol (as Canada was not a contracting state); therefore, broad-based protection could only be secured by brand owners tediously applying for trademark protection in each individual country or region (such as the European Union).  Canadian business has been forced to be very deliberate and selective in investing in foreign trademark registration: 91 separate trademark registrations are, even for a large business, a tremendous financial investment, an overwhelming amount of administration, and nearly impossible to negotiate the often very different registration regimes and laws in each foreign jurisdiction.  The result is that Canadian business, with few exceptions, does not enjoy global protection of its marks.   Happily, however, this will soon change. 

Facilitate Foreign Investment

The new trademark regime is also likely great for foreign investment.   Foreign businesses could not easily register their trademarks in Canada by means of a single international application.   Obtaining trademark rights in Canada previously required foreigners to submit a standalone trademark application: as their international registration applications did not extend to Canada.  This undoubtedly stifled foreign investment, as many businesses would be unwilling to expand into the Canadian market without first securing trademark rights – and our process is cumbersome and exceptionally delayed.  Canada's accession to the international treaties, and meeting the requirements of the Protocol, will not only allow our Canadian-based businesses to confidently expand into foreign markets by streamlining the process for securing brand protection, but will also facilitate foreign investment in Canada.

Expanded Definition of Trademark

The new legislation also expands the definition of a trademark to allow registration of a large category of brand signatures, including mode of packaging, sound, taste and scent.  For example, if the scent of your goods is sufficiently distinctive, such that your consumers would identify the goods as originating with your company simply by virtue of a characteristic scent – such scent is potentially registrable in Canada. In practice, the expanded definition of "trademark" is unlikely to impact most Canadian businesses.  However, the inclusive nature of the definition will perhaps provide greater protection in Canada to our clients who use 'non-traditional' marks to identify and distinguish the source of their goods/services from those of another.

The Not So Great

Of course, there are also some clear disadvantages in this new process.  The most obvious is that trademark registration protection is reduced from 15 years to 10 years.   Also, there will almost certainly be a greatly increased cost.  Most jurisdictions that have adopted the Madrid Protocol have also adopted a structure that charges a fee for each international class of goods and services.  These fees are not insignificant; therefore, broad applications will likely be far more expensive than very narrow applications.  The legislation has also set aside the requirements to declare use, including any requirement to declare the date of first use.  We believe that the result will be far less information on the Trademarks Register by which clients can assess their rights vis-a-vis other brand owners, or set strategy for pursuing trademark protection or enforcement.   Brand owners will almost certainly have to resort to investigative services to obtain accurate information as to competitors and infringers first-use dates – all at an increased cost, increased delay and increased uncertainty.


As the regulations and office protocols have not yet been solidified, trademark professionals remain uncertain as to how to properly advise their clients.  As the process takes shape, businesses should engage with their trademark agent to obtain recommendations specific to their particular circumstances.  However, generally, we recommend that clients that are within one year of renewing their trademark registrations should contact us to determine if a renewal should be secured prior to the reduced registration period coming into force.  We also surmise that in a climate of reduced transparency in first-use dates and reduced significance of use in the registration process, there will be opportunities for nefarious practices such as trademark squatting and trademark swarming.   Therefore, we reinforce our strong recommendation that clients secure early registration of all of their trademarks to ensure that an infringer or competitor does not cut in front of them in the queue to registration. 

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.

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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

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.

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 by clicking here .

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.


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.