Guard your trademark
About 20 years ago, trademark law began
to take on a heightened level of awareness. Until then, while companies had
always registered their trademarks to formally protect the rights to their marks, the
latent marketing advantage to a trademark was never fully perceived. It was at
that time that advertising agencies started
to recognize the ability of a trademark to
capture the public’s imagination.
A good example of that is the London
Life Insurance Co.’s trademark, “
Freedom 55.” London Life coined the trademark in its effort to market its financial services to baby boomers, with the
trademark eventually taking on a life of
its own—it was a company’s marketing
dream come true.
The valuable marketing potential to
a trademark resulted in a new genre of
trademark applications, whose numbers
have not abated. Today, even companies
that have no traditional marketing com-
ponent to their business recognize that
their trademark is their public impri-
matur, and they are jealously protecting
them through registration.
The Business Depot case
In the 1980s, Office Depot Inc. was the
largest retail chain for office supplies in
the United States. In 1993, looking for
business development opportunities, it
decided to expand operations into Canada and chose to open its first Ontario
store three miles from two stores run by
its competitor Business Depot Ltd.
In 1990, around the time Business De-
pot started its operations, it prudently
filed a trademark application with the
Canadian Trademarks Office for “Busi-
ness Depot,” which application eventu-
ally matured to registration.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is one or more words, or
a design (such as the Nike “swoosh”)
that is used to distinguish a company’s
business from that of another. As well,
trademarked phrases have become
common, such as the American Express Co.’s tagline, “Membership Has