The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) released its annual report entitled "2017 IP CANADA REPORT", providing an overview of the trends in intellectual property used by Canadian and international companies, both domestically and abroad. This bulletin summarizes and comments on some of the most interesting data contained in the 2017 report with respect to trade-marks. Part 2 of this bulletin series will examine patents.

Brand Protection - Steady As It Goes

With Canada shortly acceding to the Madrid Protocol, much of the focus in the 2017 Report is on international activity. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that domestic trademark applications have been holding steady on multiple fronts for the last decade or so. The number of trademark applications filed annually in Canada will vary with GDP (for resident filers) and imports (for non-residents), but major economic events aside there's been a comforting and steady growth in the data.

For example, resident trademark applications grew 5% during 2016, with the number of applications filed by non-residents up by 4%. Since 2007, resident filings have increased by 12% and there has been 16% growth in non-resident applications over that period. Similarly, the ratio of resident to non-resident applications has been holding steady at around 43% for resident applications (and 57% for non-resident) since 2007 and around three-quarters of non-resident applications filed in Canada in 2016 came from the US, Europe and China - collectively our biggest trading partners.

There's nothing too dramatic here, but the underlying message seems to be clear - there's a steady increase in trademark applications being filed in Canada by both domestic applicants and those based in Canada's major trading economies, reflecting the growing importance of brand protection in today's economy.

Trademarks - Explosive International Growth

In contrast to the domestic scene, the number of trademark applications filed internationally by Canadians grew 48% between 2006 and 2015. The three primary destinations for those applications were the US, China and the EU (where a single application can cover the entire European Union). Between 2006 and 2015, the number of trademark applications filed by Canadians in those jurisdictions grew by 20% for the US, 42% for the EU and a staggering 126% for China which is now one of Canada's biggest trading partners, behind only the US.

These figures underline the increasing international focus of Canadian businesses as they look to expand and protect their interests abroad, particularly in major growth economies such as China. That's put into further context when comparing the increase in trademark applications filed by Canadians inside North America (including within Canada) with those filed internationally between 2006 and 2015. While total North American applications grew by 15% during that time, there was a massive 82% growth in applications filed by Canadians outside of North America.

With the Madrid Protocol set to make international applications (at least in theory) more accessible to Canadian businesses, that trend may be set to continue.

The Impact of Brexit?

The 2017 Report doesn't mention Brexit. However, assuming that Britain doesn't reverse its decision to exit the European Union, there are a couple of reasons why the data on international trademark applications filed by Canadians may start to fluctuate, at least in the short term.

First, Britain may be left looking for new trade deals to fill some of the EU-shaped void it could find itself in. Canada would be a prime contender and any material increase in trade with the UK would presumably lead to an increased focus on trademark filings.

Second, any Canadian brand owners looking for trademark protection in the UK post-Brexit will need to file domestic UK applications, since an EU application would no longer cover Britain. Existing EU registrations and applications when Brexit occurs may be converted into domestic UK rights, but at this stage nobody knows what the process would be or how much it would cost. As a result, many Canadian brand owners are already filing for domestic UK trademarks now, including for their existing EU portfolios. Any businesses or rights holders worried about a potential scramble for rights or opportunistic squatters might be well advised to follow suit.

Conclusion

From a trademarks perspective, the growing importance of brand protection to almost all businesses is translating into the filing data. There's steady growth domestically and, as Canadian businesses look to expand internationally, a high rate of growth in international trademark applications filed by resident Canadians. The implementation of Madrid may cement both of those trends, by opening up the Canadian market to more non-resident brand owners and allowing Canadian resident filers to cover more jurisdictions with their foreign applications. Brexit may see a jump in UK filings, but it doesn't look set to have a lasting impact on the long term trends that have been developing.