Reserved designations: one of many commercial identification strategies

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This section provides a general description of the various commercial identification strategies available to operators when marketing their products, including:

  • Operator or company names
  • Trademarks
  • Certification marks
  • Reserved designations

For more details on trademarks and certification, you can read the Guide to Trade-marks by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) [www.opic.ic.gc.ca]
 

Ordinary trademarks

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This strategy relies on the trademark rather than on the manufacturer to identify the product. Campbell’s Soup, for example, uses the V8 trademark to identify its vegetable cocktail. Once the reputation of a product bearing this trademark has been established, manufacturers can focus their advertising on the trademark rather than on their name.

An ordinary mark consists in a word (or words), a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization and to distinguish these goods or services from those of others in the marketplace. You are not required to register your trade-mark — using a mark for a certain length of time can establish your ownership under common law. However, registration is direct evidence of ownership.

The protection, communication and management of ordinary trademarks are the responsibility of trademark holders.

Certification marks

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A more community-based strategy is to associate certain products with a given region or a group of producers for one or more specific factors. This identification may be used as a source label for place-based products by means of a certification mark registered and managed by an organization that has set out its conditions of use in its specification manual. The idea behind a certification mark is for a group of companies with shared interests to federate around a brand or around a specification manual. This policy results in the identification of the characteristics of a product sought after by consumers. If based on credible reasons and elements, the first result of this strategy is to increase product sales volumes and the second is to attract tourists who want to learn more about their manufacturing method, as well as flavours, when they are associated with a particular region.

The protection, communication and management of an ordinary trademark are the responsibility of organizations that hold the certification mark.

Operator or company names

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One of the first strategies is both the simplest and the most difficult to use. It relies on the reputation of those operators (producers or processors) who have already demonstrated their know-how. Both the business and consumers demand products with labelling showing that they were manufactured by persons or companies known for their concern for quality.

Reserved designations

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Reserved designations are more precise and are limited to the products they target, but they also allow public recognition of a product’s authenticity. They result from the collective effort of a group of operators wishing to have an existing product recognized and protected with respect to their added value, often developed over decades or generations.

Reserved designations refer only to product types whose particular characteristics are known to consumers. These product types may be production methods (e.g. organic production) or specific characteristics related to their origin (e.g. Agneau de Charlevoix) and specificity (e.g. pre-salted lamb).

The protection of reserved designations is the responsibility of the public domain. However, the communication and management of designations are the responsibility of designation applicant groups.