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(Cont'd from previous post)

Updated: Mar 29

What can't be trademarked?

There are a lot of words that you can't trademark. This is because some words have become so generic that they don't belong to any one company or business. You also can't register or use certain terms if your trademark would cause confusion with a registered mark owned by someone else.

Here's a list of common things that cannot be trademarked:

Words or phrases that are descriptive

If you're trying to trademark a word or phrase, there are some things you should know. For starters, descriptive words and phrases can't be trademarked unless they acquire "secondary meaning."

Secondary meaning is when the public identifies a word or phrase as belonging to a single source--in other words, when consumers associate the word with your business. This can be established by showing that consumers associate the mark with your product or service in its marketplace (for example: if all customers think of your ice cream business when they see "Cold & Creamy").

Generic terms

Generic terms are words or phrases that have been used by the public to describe a good or service, rather than a trademark owner. This means that you can't register a trademark for these types of words. For example, "computer" is considered generic because it refers to all computers and doesn't identify who makes them or what type of computer they are.

If you want to protect your brand name from becoming genericized by others, avoid using it as an adjective or verb (i.e., don't say things like "I'm going to go Google something"), and make sure you're using proper capitalization when referring to your company's products and services (i.e., don't say "Facebooked").

Names and logos that are currently used by others

If you have tried to register a trademark and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has rejected it, it's probably because someone else already owns a similar mark. For example, if you want to sell shoes under the name "Super Sneakers" and another company already owns that mark for use on clothing, then there would be an issue of confusion as to which one was selling what type of product.

(By the way, if this happens to your business or brand please contact me immediately so I can help you resolve any issues before it gets out of hand!)

Words or symbols that have become so commonplace or generic that they have lost their trademark status (eg. aspirin)

Generic terms are those that have become so commonplace or generic that they have lost their trademark status.

For example, the word "aspirin" was originally a brand name for a painkiller made by Bayer AG. However, when it became clear that aspirin worked just as well as other painkillers and consumers no longer associated it with Bayer AG's specific product, its status shifted from being a trademarked term to one that could be used freely by anyone who wished to do so.

(cont'd in the next post)


If you're looking to trademark your brand name, slogan, or logo, it's important that you know what can and cannot be trademarked. Let me help you and provide professional guidance in the process of trademarking a word or design!

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