Trademarking Personal Names
In Canada, your ability to register personal names as trademarks is significantly limited. Find out in this cartoon what CANNOT be trademarked, and also about several workarounds.
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NARRATOR: Margaret Jacobs runs an accounting practice.
NARRATOR: Margaret wants to register her business name “MARGARET JACOBS”. She is calling Trademark Factory.
MARGARET (calling the lawyer): Hello, I would like to register my trademark MARGARET JACOBS. That’s my name and I use it to run my accounting business.
TRADEMARK FACTORY: Hello Margaret, I am glad you called and I will be happy to assist you.
Unfortunately, in Canada while you can use your personal name to run a business you can’t register a trademark that consists only of your full name or your last name.
MARGARET: How about simply JACOBS?
TRADEMARK FACTORY: No, like I said, if the trademark is nothing but your last name, it’s not registrable.
MARGARET: Awwww... That’s too bad...
TRADEMARK FACTORY: Hold on, there are some ways around this rule.
MARGARET: Like what?
TRADEMARK FACTORY: If your trademark consists of more than just your name, it may become registrable.
MARGARET: So, can I register MARGARET JACOBS ACCOUNTING?
TRADEMARK FACTORY: Yes.
TRADEMARK FACTORY: You can also use your first name alone as it does not violate the rules.
MARGARET: Can I register MARGARET or MARGARET’S or MARGARET’S ACCOUNTING?
TRADEMARK FACTORY: Yes, these are all perfectly registrable trademarks. You can also combine your last name with the name of your partner if you have one.
MARGARET: I’m working with my daughter. Can we trademark JACOBS & JACOBS?
TRADEMARK FACTORY: Yes!
MARGARET: Thank you.
TRADEMARK FACTORY: There are some other exceptions. If the surname has another meaning or is a dictionary word and is not just a surname, it can also be registered.
TRADEMARK FACTORY: For example, in a famous trademark case, applicant tried to register ELDER and got rejected. Elder is a surname but also a dictionary word with several different meanings. Dictionary meanings of the word were significant. It was held that the trademark was registrable as it had another meaning.
MARGARET: Good to know. I think I will probably go with MARGARET JACOBS ACCOUNTING.
TRADEMARK FACTORY: No problem, before we go ahead and file an application, I will need to do a search to make sure there are no confusing marks on the Register. I will let you know the results.
MARGARET: Sounds good. Bye, bye.
Disclaimer: Please note that this cartoon is not and is not intended as legal advice. Your situation may be different from the facts assumed in this cartoon. Your watching this cartoon does not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Trademark Factory International Inc., and you should not rely on this cartoon as the only source of information to make important decisions about your intellectual property.
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