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Only in Canada!

I recently wrote a blog about some of the issues that arise with “global” advertising and adapting foreign creative to the Canadian market. Perhaps the “flip” side of creative considerations is knowing what uniquely Canadian institutions, symbols etc. cannot be used to identify a product or communication as Canadian without the proper consents. If you were to ask the average person on the street what images would instantly say “Canada” or “Canadian” I am sure that among the top items would be the flag, the maple leaf, a Mountie, our money (not to mention a few furry animals).

Particularly given the potential of greater use of Canada’s emblems during its sesquicentennial in 2017, it is important to know that when you are contemplating using Canadian symbols in your commercial communication, certain rules will apply for certain images. For example, you cannot use a Mountie (real or someone in costume), or the words Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP, or Mountie, without the consent of the RCMP.

The Trademarks Act protects the use of many symbols, flags and emblems, not just the Canadian flag, and the use of it or the coat of arms for Canada must be approved by the appropriate federal department.

While there are somewhat fewer restrictions on the use to the maple leaf, I would highlight a general caution. The use of a maple leaf on or in conjunction with a product would likely imply a “Made in Canada” claim. As a result the product would have to actually meet the requirements for that claim, as set out in the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

An inference that your product or service is “Made in” or a “Product of” Canada may also be considered misleading by the Competition Bureau. See their guidelines here.

What about the use of images of Canadian bank notes? It depends. In a television commercial …probably yes; on a coupon…no. The Bank of Canada has a useful summary. The use of images of Canadian coins is somewhat different. Copyright in coins is owned by the Royal Canadian Mint not the Bank of Canada; consent needs to be obtained and, in most cases, a license fee paid.

As with adapting “Global” advertising there are other uniquely Canadian considerations. Make sure that you protect yourself against the potential pitfalls and get legal advice before you launch your marketing and advertising programs.


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