Intellectual Property – The Essentials

If you own or manage a business you should know a thing or two about intellectual property (“IP”). Whether you provide professional services, run a small coffee shop, or are the CEO of a large multi-national corporation, IP issues will inevitably arise. Being attuned to these issues and addressing them up front can prevent future problems and go a long way toward maximizing the value of your business, whatever that may be.

For the those that may not be aware, IP is something that doesn’t exist in physical form and can include an idea, invention, design or other creation of the mind. It can be protected in various ways depending upon the circumstances, including by obtaining a registered copyright, trademark or patent. Because it can’t be held or counted as inventory in the traditional sense, the importance and true value of IP is often overlooked.

Over the next few posts I’ll be covering the basics of intellectual property. The goal will be to help business owners and managers identify IP issues and opportunities. Luckily, a little information in this regard can go a long way.

5 Tips for Choosing a Business Name

Every business needs a name. A good one can generate business. A bad one can lead to law suits and bankruptcy. While a name alone is unlikely to make or break your business, it can make a significant difference.

Here are some tips for choosing a good business name:

1.___Be creative – having a name that sounds like something already in the marketplace may seem like a good idea, but it rarely is. It can lead to customer confusion, trade-mark infringement claims and other unwanted consequences. Make sure to use search engines, phone books, corporate name searches and trade-mark databases among other things to look for any similar names already in existence.

2.___Consider Your Online Presence  – Make sure the domain name and social media accounts you want are available (think Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Why settle for a modified online name when you don’t have to? You may also want to secure multiple domain names or multiple domain extensions. If a domain name you want is already taken, it may be possible for you to negotiate a domain name transfer or to get rid of any domain name squatters, but to do so will cost you time and money.

3.___Think Ahead – Consider where you’ll be carrying on business in the near and distant future. If you plan on carrying on business in the United States for example, your name search efforts (prior to choosing the name) should extend to the US as well.

4.___Make it Memorable – Although Bob’s Baked Goods may adequately describe what you do, it’s not exactly a head turner. You want clients to remember your business name, not just what you sell. If you run a corporation, you should also be careful about using all or part of your name in the name of the business. Doing so could result in customers thinking that they’re dealing with you instead of the corporation and increases the potential for personal liability.

5.___Consider Trade-mark Possibilities – Obtaining a registered trade-mark for your business name can provide many advantages. It provides for name protection across Canada, allows for easier enforcement against those that try to subsequently use your name (or something confusingly similar), and provides advantages for domain name and social media account disputes. If you want to trade-mark your business name now or in the future, your name must meet the technical requirements prescribed by the Trade-marks Act. If you fail to consider this possibility up front, you’re more likely to end up choosing a name that isn’t capable of being registered as a trade-mark. More information on the technical requirements and why you may want to consider obtaining a trade-mark registration for your business name can be found on the Canadian Intellectual Property Institute website here.

Considering the foregoing tips before choosing your next business name could save you significant time, expense and heartache down the road.

Canada’s New Anti-Spam Rules – The Basics

After being in the works for nearly 10 years, Canada has new anti-spam rules coming into force in July of 2014. The Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (also known as “CASL”) is intended to limit the amount of spam messages received by Canadians. It will require significant changes to the way that businesses interact with their Canadian customers.

CASL restricts the sending of “commercial electronic messages” (which can include e-mails, text messages and other forms of electronic messages) to anyone in Canada, unless one of the exemptions in the Act or Regulations apply. CASL also contains provisions dealing with the installation of computer programs which come into force in January of 2015.

As a failure to comply with CASL can result in a business (and potentially corporate directors) incurring very large fines and civil liability, it’s important for businesses to start preparing for compliance today. In an effort to help with compliance efforts, we’ve prepared a short summary of basic provisions of CASL as well as compliance guidelines. The summary can be viewed by clicking here.