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In Brief: Intellectual property news – and concerns!

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Intellectual Property - lack of IP awareness is worrying

On February 18, 2021, the Canadian government released the results of a survey of businesses meant to determine the use and familiarity of Canadian business owners and managers with intellectual property. The following astonishing statistic is found in the very first sentence: “From 2017 to 2019, approximately one-fifth of businesses (18.2 per cent) in Canada reported that they owned at least one type of intellectual property (IP), including IP owned outside Canada.” 

Why astonishing? Plainly, the bulk of business owners and managers that responded to the survey do not understand that their businesses own a lot of intellectual property.  It is true that many businesses do not own patents of invention, but how many do not have trade secrets such as customer lists, supplier lists, pricing formulae, know-how, etc.?  How many would not have trademarks, registered or not, that they use to promote their services or name their products?  What about companies that have web pages or promotional brochures, user manuals and owner guides?  Certainly, there are copyrights in those works.

There may be good reasons why some businesses may not desire to register or otherwise protect their rights, and the survey does touch on some.  That said, the urgent concern is that many business owners and managers seem unfamiliar with intellectual property rights, rights that can add value to their businesses if considered and then protected properly. The lack of recognition of these rights can result in their loss, and then a loss of value of the business as a whole.

The survey may be accessed here

Scam warnings aplenty!

For a long time, the Canadian and US trademark offices have been warning that there are unscrupulous folks that mine information from trademark and patent databases and then write to rights owners advising that unless they take steps – which always involve sending the scammers money – the rights owners’ patents or trademarks will be in jeopardy.  Another frequent approach is an offer to “publish” the owners’ details on the internet. 

Our standard advice to clients is to ignore these “offers” or, if in doubt as to their utility, to contact us.

We recently became aware of a newer scam.  It works like this:  The fraudster files a trademark application in the name of a legitimate company but cleverly substitutes the company’s contact information with coordinates controlled by the scam artist.  Then the fraudster may use the resulting registration to facilitate other fraudulent activities. Similar schemes have been used in the past to attempt to gain control of online storefronts on e-commerce platforms, or to legitimize counterfeiters’ illicit sales.

It is important to note that such schemes work just as well with other types of rights; they are not limited to use of information gleaned from government intellectual property databases.

We recommend that all rights owners, irrespective of size or business, keep on the lookout for illicit uses of their corporate names, trademarks, etc.  A fraudster may be trying to scam their customers and could irreparably damage their brands.

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