Trademarks: What They Are and Where They Fit Into Your Small Business Brand

Branding is an essential step of any new small business. A memorable and compelling brand is your opportunity  to stand out in a crowded marketplace. But what is a brand?

By definition, a brand comprises a variety of elements that come together to create a distinctive personality for your business: a remarkable public persona. To help you define your business brand, ask yourself such questions as: What is my target market? What message does my business name communicate? What image do I want my business to portray? What kind of emotional response am I trying to create in my customer?  

Although you could probably describe your brand values quite readily, you’re probably less familiar with the crucial role that trademarks play in the communication of your brand. But before I further explore the relationship between branding and trademarks, I will answer the following question: what exactly is a trademark?

In simple terms, a trademark functions as a source identifier for a vendor’s products and/or services, and it allows the consumer to distinguish the offerings of one business from those of its competitors. As a result, trademarks play an important role in eliminating consumer confusion in the marketplace.

So what does a trademark consist of? Although there are many types of trademarks, the most common ones come in the following forms:

  1. Standard Text
    i.e. TIM HORTONS…KPMG…7-11
  2. Slogans, Phrases or Taglines 
  3. Design Logos
    ie.: Trademark_Image
  4. Or any combination of the above 

The thing the above trademarks have in common is that they’re immediately recognizable to the general public and more importantly to each company’s target market. Their target customer can readily describe all of the elements of the company’s creative brand, just by looking at their logo or hearing their name.

A unique and distinctive trademark is the ultimate marketing tool: it becomes the most efficient communicator of the reputation and goodwill that your brand has accumulated in the marketplace. 

There is immense value in creating a unique, recognizable trademark that speaks to your brand. Here are the top 6 benefits of registering a trademark:

  1. It is an intangible asset that is protected from use by others.
  2. It provides you with proof of ownership and the ability to sue if a competitor tries to use something similar.
  3. It provides exclusive rights across Canada to use of your trademark in your category for 15 years
  4. The Trademarks Office will block any other similar or confusing trademarks from becoming registered
  5. A Canadian trademark registration will generally make it easier to register your trademark in other countries
  6. It confers immediate credibility and trust in your business for your target customer

However, not every trademark is unique and not every trademark can or should be protected. Next time, I will provide some insight on what makes a great trademark (and what doesn’t) and how a business owner can create a great trademark for their business.