Businesses concerned with protecting their brand can learn a valuable lesson from the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, Masterpiece Inc. v. Alavida Lifestyles Inc. Both companies are in the retirement business and Alavida trade-marked the phrase "Masterpiece Living" in 2007. Masterpiece then successfully challenged Alavida's claim, as they had been using the terms "Masterpiece" and "Masterpiece Living" since 2001.

The Supreme Court's decision highlights the importance of establishing evidence of your brand early on to avoid any future claims by other parties. However, lawyers advise that business owners should also register their trade-marks to ensure their brand is protected.

Hafeez Rupani and Kathleen Lemieux, lawyers in the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, acknowledge that small business owners might be intimidated by the cost of filing a trademark application. But businesses might derive more comfort from acting proactively and being the first to get the registration in place. Said Hafeez, "once you come up with a great name, seeking protection for it makes a lot of sense."