Jan13th

2015

January 13, 2015 @ 13:49:00
Can Your Trademark Strategy Predict Success Of Your Business?
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How you treat your business’s intellectual property speaks volumes about you and your business. The more business owners I meet, the more parallels I see between their approach to trademarking and to doing business in general. Indeed, as T. Harv Eker put it, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

I have written books and countless articles, as well as given many lectures and presentations about various technical aspects of trademarking. This post is different, because it’s not really about trademarks. It’s about you and your business.

We are taught to emulate successful people. This is why books like Think and Grow Rich and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are so popular. Well, guess what, all successful businesses protect their intellectual assets. This is not a coincidence.

Robert Kiyosaki is a great example. After his Velcro wallets company went bust because he hadn’t bothered to protect the IP, he chose not to repeat his mistake and securely protected several brands around his Rich Dad Poor Dad series and the Cashflow game before they were fully validated by the market.

Think of a hundred successful brands. I’d be surprised if you can find one that is not trademarked.

When I see an entrepreneur who runs a business under a great brand but refuses to get it trademarked, I know that whatever the excuse is, the real reason is always the same. They don’t believe in their ability to build a great business. Their dream is to build an OK business. Their #1 task is not to make a costly mistake. Their motivation is to avoid looking silly because they’ve invested too much in a business that failed. Will their friends laugh at them because they trademarked the brand for a business that went broke? What will their loved one say?

The real problem is that they don’t truly believe that they deserve to be recognized for something amazing.

If you ever learned or taught someone else to ride a bike, you will know that it is impossible to get anywhere if you’re only looking at your feet turning the pedals. You must look up in the direction you’re going.

Running a business is like riding a bike. Granted, you must deal with operations and day-to-day challenges (turning the pedals), but you won’t get very far unless you know exactly what you’re building (where you’re going). At best, you’ll be going in circles. At worst, you’ll get a vertigo and fall.

Never make decisions about trademarking based on where your business is today. These decisions must be made based on where your business may be if you’re really successful.

The Coca-Cola Company trademarked its brand (which is now valued at 80 Billion dollars) long before it became a transnational corporate giant. Filing the trademark application was one of the first things the company did in 1892. Why? The owners believed that they could build a business that one day might become a transnational corporate giant. Could this investment have been a waste of their money? Of course. But compare the risk of wasting a few hundred or even thousand dollars (in today’s money) to the risk of failing to protect what will be worth tens of Billions of dollars one day!

Let’s say that, for one reason or another, you choose not to protect the brand you developed for your business. Remember, when you’re out there networking and spreading your business cards with colourful logos and catchy taglines, you are sending a very clear message to your customers, business partners and competitors. The message is, “I am not sure if my brand or even my business will still be around in 2 years!”

Will every business be a tremendous success? Of course not. But why would you play a lose-lose game? Why not give your business a chance to grow into something huge?

I want to make one thing clear. As much as my firm is interested in new business, I’d rather you file your trademark applications yourself or through someone else than see you squander your brand! Why? Because to me, protecting your ideas and covering your assets® is not just a way to make a living, it’s both my passion and my mission!

So if you are running a business that is mildly successful or that you hope might be successful one day, here’s what you should do. It’s a simple, 3-step action plan:

1) Figure out if your brand is trademarkable. Head out to http://freeTMsearch.com right now and order your free registrability report. Yes, we offer this service completely free of charge, with no strings attached.

2) Figure out if you should trademark your brand. Not only will we send you the trademark search report, we’ll be happy to talk to you on the phone and help you build your brand protection strategy, so that you have complete clarity what needs to be done now, what can wait, and what can be safely ignored. This consultation is also free.

3) Finally, if in the back of your mind you know that you have something trademarkable that should be trademarked, stop procrastinating. Just do it!

Entrepreneurs who have built multiple successful businesses have automated the “come up with an idea—come up with a brand—trademark the brand” process the same way most of us have automated “wake up—wash face—brush teeth” process. Trademarking is truly a habit of highly successful business owners

Are you going to be one of them?

Jan06th

2015

January 6, 2015 @ 06:00:00
Avoid These 5 Trademarking Rip-Offs
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I’ve just published a new free report about 5 most common ways you can get ripped off in the trademarking process.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Categories:Intellectual Property:Trademarks

Dec24th

2014

December 24, 2014 @ 10:33:00
Owning Your Competitive Advantage
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Fresh entrepreneurs very quickly realize that the most important part of their business is getting enough people to buy from them. You may be amazing at what you do but if nobody buys from you, you’ll be broke. Whether you are reaching out to your prospects through social media, website, cold calls, newspaper ads, or face-to-face networking, you need a compelling marketing message.

2 INGREDIENTS OF A COMPELLING MARKETING MESSAGE

Your marketing message may only succeed if it does two things:

  • it must clearly explain how you’re different from everyone else who does the same thing (your USP, or unique selling proposition); and
  • allow people to remember who you are (your branding).

If even one of these two pieces is missing, you have a problem. What’s the point of remembering who you are if you are no different from everyone else? If your message is, “My name is John Smith, I’m with Evil Clowns Accounting Ltd., and I do accounting,” don’t expect thousands of clients to reach for their wallets just because you have chosen a silly name for your business.

On the other hand, even if you have the best offer on the market but no one can remember who you are, how are people supposed to find you? Imagine your potential clients chatting: “Do you remember the name of this guy who came up with this amazing way to do your corporate accounting in 20 minutes a month or less, guaranteed, for free?—Nope.—OK, who else is there?”

Having a compelling USP is a given. It’s what makes you money. But the more competitive your industry, the more you need to develop branding that would stand out and be remembered.

Again, people buy from you not because you’re a great plumber, an amazing accountant, a brilliant carpet cleaner, or an outstanding chef. They buy from you because you managed to create a compelling message that your customers like, understand, and remember. You came up with a remarkable brand.

HOW TO SECURE YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE?

OK, let’s say you figured out what your USP is and came up with branding that sets you apart from your competition. You realize that this powerful combination of your brand and your USP is your strongest competitive advantage.

Now you need to protect it. Just as you wouldn’t leave a suitcase full of cash unattended in the middle of Times Square, you shouldn’t leave your business assets unprotected.

This has nothing to do with lawyers’ fear mongering. This is just common sense. If you have something valuable, you do what it takes to maximize its value. If you make money as a photographer, you’d take care of your camera. If you make money fixing screens for the new iPhone, you would protect your supply chain for replacement parts. If you make money as a copywriter, you would treasure your collection of templates. Right?

If you’re a business owner who makes money because you have a remarkable brand, you owe it to yourself and to your business to protect it.

How? You trademark it!

You can trademark the names of your products and services, logos, and taglines. Depending on the type of your business, some types of trademarks would be more valuable than others.

With a registered trademark, you can legally prevent your competitors from using identical or similar names, logos, or taglines anywhere in the U.S., Canada, or any other country where your trademark is registered. Nobody will be able to register identical or similar marks. You will save tens of thousands of dollars if you ever need to defend your rights in court. Finally, with an ® next to your brand, you will be taken more seriously if you decide to franchise, license out or sell your business.

FREE TRADEMARK SEARCH

The first step in your trademarking journey will be getting clear as to whether your brand is trademarkable. Not all brands are created equal. Not all trademarks can be registered. While trademark registries are open to the public, it takes more than finding (or not finding) your brand in the list to decide whether it’s registrable. You should have trademark professionals do a proper search for you. Yes, most firms will charge you somewhere between $200 and $300 for the search, but the good news is that now you can order your trademark search, FOR FREE, through Trademark Factory®. And it\\\'s not just an automated database search. You get real human trademark professionals do the search for you and walk you through the trademarkability report over the phone.

To get started, just go to http://freeTMsearch.com, fill out the form, and in a couple of days, you will receive a professional opinion if your brand is registrable. That easy!

And no, you are under no obligation to buy any services if you order the search.

So if you have an unprotected brand, what are you waiting for? Find out if your brand is trademarkable and protect it!

Don’t squander your brand! Don’t let your competition eat your lunch! Don’t settle for survival mode, dare to believe that you can build a great business, not just something that pays the bills.

Categories:Intellectual Property:Trademarks

Dec23th

2014

December 23, 2014 @ 20:54:00
Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 New Year
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This is becoming an annual tradition.

This year’s Christmas song:

To those of you who haven’t seen it, last year, I recorded quite a different song:

Enjoy!

Categories:Website Updates:Website Updates

Dec09th

2014

December 9, 2014 @ 12:25:43
CKFTA - Much a Deal about Nothing
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I am proud to announce that my article on Canada - South Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) has just been published by Intellectual Property Magazine. You can buy or subscribe to the magazine at http://www.intellectualpropertymagazine.com/.

The publisher generously agreed to its republication, so you can read my comments below.


MUCH ADO ABOUT CKFTA

CONTEXT

On September 22, 2014, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Korean President Park Geun-hye celebrated the signing of Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA). This article’s objective is to provide the context for and brief comments on IP-related provisions of CKFTA.

The official Canadian summary of the Agreement’s highlights states that the Agreement “will ensure that Canadian IP rights-holders can do business with confidence in the South Korean market”1..

This appears somewhat condescending given that Canada is not exactly known for being at the forefront of intellectual property protection. Just the opposite, since 1995, Canada has been on the U.S. Government’s Special “Watch List” as a country where IP protection is problematic2.. Canada’s position is that its failure to adequately protect IP is an attempt to find “an appropriate balance between the interests of IP rights-holders and the interests of users.” How using somebody else’s property without permission can ever be a right is being conveniently overlooked.

The author of this article is a Canadian lawyer and does not purport to know Korean law, but statistics for both countries’ participation in international treaties on intellectual property demonstrate that Korea takes IP more seriously. Canada is a party to 10 international treaties (of which two Canada joined in 2014)3., while Korea is a party to 184.:

Treaty In Force Since
Canada Korea
Berne Convention April 10, 1928 August 21, 1996
Brussels Convention March 19, 2012
Budapest Treaty September 21, 1996 March 28, 1988
Hague Agreement July 1, 2014
Locarno Agreement April 17, 2011
Madrid Protocol April 10, 2003
Nice Agreement January 8, 1999
Paris Convention September 1, 1923 May 4, 1980
Patent Cooperation Treaty January 2, 1990 August 10, 1984
Phonograms Convention October 10, 1987
Rome Convention June 4, 1998 March 18, 2009
Strasbourg Agreement January 11, 1996 October 8, 1999
Trademark Law Treaty February 25, 2003
UPOV Convention March 4, 1991 January 7, 2002
Vienna Agreement April 17, 2011
WIPO Convention June 26, 1970 March 1, 1979
WIPO Copyright Treaty August 13, 2014 June 24, 2004
WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty August 13, 2014 March 18, 2009

Many IP-related provisions of CKFTA merely reference other international treaties to which Canada and Korea are parties. This is important because Canada does not enforce international treaties directly. To have the force of law in Canada, provisions of all international conventions, treaties and agreements (including CKFTA) must be implemented in national Canadian legislation.

Add to this rather vague language of Canadian statutes on intellectual property and scarcity of precedent law—and you will see the problem. How would you know if a certain provision of an international treaty needs implementation into the national legislation if two lawyers can’t agree on what the national legislation actually is? Some Canadian lawyers, myself included, believe that extensive scope of exceptions from copyright conflicts with Canada’s obligations under the Berne Convention and TRIPS, while some others believe that it doesn’t. As a result, the parties are likely to have different assumptions about how these provisions should be interpreted.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

One of the declared objectives of CKFTA is “to achieve a balance between the rights of IP right-holders and the legitimate interests of IP users.5.” Notice that the treaty does not use the controversial words “users’ rights”, however there still remains the question, what legitimate interests do IP users have regarding intellectual property of others. Who determines what interests are legitimate? Is using someone else’s music for your YouTube videos your legitimate interest? Is copying textbooks for the purposes of education a legitimate interest? What about using pictures on a blog by a non-profit?

CKFTA reaffirms both parties’ obligations under TRIPS as a minimal standard6., confirms the national treatment requirement7., and opens the door for a more extensive protection for and enforcement of intellectual property, as long as such extensive protection “does not contravene CKFTA.8.” Which, again, brings the question of users and their rights and legitimate interests. By definition, protection of exclusive rights comes at the expense of everyone other than the owner of that exclusive right. Logically, it is impossible to unilaterally offer more extensive protection to IP owners without disturbing the “balance of interest” that CKFTA purports to achieve.

TRADEMARKS

The Treaty specifically opens the door for sound trademarks and forbids limiting registrable trademarks to those that are visually perceptible9.. This is in line with the law established in Canada after a 2012 Practice Notice by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and the recent amendments to the Trade-Marks Act.

CKFTA requires the parties to protect collective marks (trademarks owned by an organization for the use by its members) and certification marks (trademarks for the use by anyone who meets a defined standard prescribed by the owner of the mark), whether such trademarks are protected as a separate category or not10.. While Canadian law protects certification marks, it does not (nor do the soon-to-be-in-force amendments to the Trade-Marks Act) refer collective marks.

The Agreement confirms the right (but not an obligation) of the parties to recognize unregistered, common-law, trademarks11..

CKFTA requires both parties to provide extra protection to well-known trademarks, whether or not such marks are registered, included on a list of well-known marks, or already recognized as well-known12.. Such protection must be conferred even if the goods and services are not identical or even similar, as long as using the well-known trademark in relation to non-similar goods or services “would indicate a connection between those goods or services and the owner of the trademark.” The interesting thing is that Canadian trademark regime is uncertain about the status of well-known marks. The leading case is the 2006 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Mattel Inc. v. 3894207 Canada Inc.13. that confirmed that difference in goods and services must be considered, however, in different cases such difference may carry greater or smaller weight. Whatever the interpretation, it is more narrow than what is commonly expected from protection conferred to well-known trademarks. Unfortunately, CKFTA does not provide more clarity whether Canada’s current standard is about to change or whether the countries would have two different standards for treating well-known marks.

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS

The parties agreed that subject to any prior rights, Korea must protect the names “Canadian Whisky” and “Canadian Rye Whisky”, and Canada must protect the names “Goryeo Hongsam”, “Goryeo Baeksam”, “Goryeo Susam”, and “Icheon Ssal” and their translations, respectively, “Korean Red Ginseng”, “Korean White Ginseng”, “Korean Fresh Ginseng” and “Icheon Rice”14..

CKFTA establishes no new general rules for geographical indications, so its effect on Canadian laws will be rather limited.

COPYRIGHT

The Agreement reaffirms that both parties shall comply with the Rome Convention, the Berne Convention, WCT and WPPT15.. Each party must provide that authors “have the right to authorize or prohibit all reproductions of their works.16.” Yet, there is no indication how this provision corresponds with massive expansion of circumstances where it is legal in Canada to use works without permission and despite prohibitions from the copyright owner.

CKFTA also sets forth that the parties must provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent unauthorized use of their IP17.. Unfortunately, however, this provision contains a qualification that a party may exclude from such protection instances where the measures are circumvented to do that which may be permitted through an applicable copyright exception. This is how the law stands in Canada, which completely defeats the idea behind the rules about technological measures. The point of these provisions is to give IP owners an effective way to deal with piracy by deeming that the very act of circumventing technological measures is an infringement. In Canada, only an act of circumventing technological measures for infringing purposes is deemed an infringement, so it is not enough to prove the fact of the circumvention.

PATENTS

This section affirms the standard requirements for patent protection—the invention must be new, involve an inventive step (be non-obvious), and be capable of industrial application (be useful)18.. The parties may exclude from patentability inventions related to cloning, methods of medical treatment of people and animals, and otherwise if providing patent protection to an invention would go against public order and morality19..

ENFORCEMENT

CKFTA contains provisions imposing an obligation on the parties to provide effective enforcement procedures against IP infringements and ensure that such procedures “are not unnecessarily complicated or costly” and that they do not “entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays.” It is open to a debate whether Canadian court system meets these requirements20..

The Agreement also prescribes that certain provisions must be implemented to ensure that adequate damages are available to an IP owner whose rights have been infringed, including award of “appropriate lawyer’s fees” to the party who prevailed in trial21..

CKFTA deals with several procedural matters. It contains a provision requiring both countries to have mechanisms to compel disclosure of information that may possess an alleged infringer that would be required for an IP owner to prove their case22.. It specifically addresses various preliminary orders and injunctions that may be available to IP owners.23.

BORDER MEASURES

The measures prescribed by the Agreement are in line with the Canada’s existing regime as proposed to be amended by the Combatting Counterfeit Products Act, which is due for its third hearing in parliament.

CRIMINAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

CKFTA requires each party to provide for criminal procedures and penalties for the unauthorized copying of a cinematographic work from a performance in a movie theatre. Interestingly, this is the only infringement that the parties agree must be punishable criminally.

INTERNET INFRINGEMENTS

Unlike a more rigorous and effective “notice and takedown” approach, Canada has recently implemented what’s called a “notice and notice” system of dealing with internet infringements. In Canada, to avoid being held in violation of IP rights, ISPs must forward an IP owner’s notice to the subscriber (the actual infringer), but they are not required (without a court order) to disclose the subscriber’s personal information nor to ensure that the infringing materials are removed.

CKFTA does not require Canada to change this regime, but provides that a party may require that an ISP expeditiously disclose to an IP owner information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement if the owner has filed a legally sufficient claim for copyright infringement24..

CONCLUSION

While the chapter on intellectual property is one of the more extensive in CKFTA it hardly adds much to the regime already established through other international treaties, such as TRIPS, WCT and WPPT.

While free trade between countries is certainly desirable, to present the IP-related chapter of CKFTA as a legal breakthrough for either Canada or South Korea would be a serious exaggeration.

Categories:Intellectual Property:CopyrightIntellectual PropertyNew ArticleTrademarksPatents
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