Trademark vs company name or trade name – Night and day?

Having only a trade or corporate name (either federally or provincially) does not necessarily mean that you own the name or are entitled to use it exclusively or prevent others from using confusingly similar names across Canada. In fact, rather than being an asset, a trade or corporate name by itself may represent a serious liability to your business.

In Canada trademark infringement occurs when the use of another word/symbol is likely to give the impression to the public that the goods or services of another party are those of the registered trademark owner. Using a corporate name which is similar to a registered trademark may result in liability for infringement of the registered trademark even if the trademark was registered after the corporate name was granted. This is so because, under Canadian trademark law, the holder of a corporate name bears the responsibility of ensuring that no new trademarks are registered which are confusing with that name.

For instance, a Canadian federal corporate name will only prevent the registration of another similar federal corporate name; it does not prevent others from having a highly similar or exactly the same business name in any province or territory in Canada.

Equally, in any Canadian province or territory, two same business/corporate names may co-exist. Therefore, do not confuse a business or corporate name registration with a registered trademark.

Both federally and provincially, a business or corporate name does not give you the exclusive ownership of the name and does not prevent others from adopting or using the same or a similar name elsewhere in the province or in Canada.