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Branding Justice: How the Canadian Trademarks Database Can Address Linguistic Inequalities

Ung Shen Goh, PhD candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

At the Technologies of Justice Conference session on ways of doing and knowing the law, Ung Shen Goh discussed branding justice: how the Canadian Trademarks Database can address linguistic inequalities. The session took place on January 26, 2018, at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



Ung Shen Goh discussed the Canadian trademark database in terms of uses and views on non-romanized languages. She first described the processes of registration and administration, and explained the differences between word marks and design marks in law. She pointed out the unintended inequalities for translations of wordmarks and how non-romanized languages receive less protection than romanized languages because they can only be translated as a design mark. She noted how this can include Canadian Indigenous languages that cannot be written in a romanized alphabet.
She explained that regular keyboards, phones and computers have the technology to use non-romanized languages, but the government does not use this technology in their system. She pointed out that sound marks are also recordable using technology, and are covered by word mark laws, yet non-romanized languages are not covered. She discussed how smell, texture and taste marks are starting to exist, but non-romanized languages are being neglected by law regardless of the advancements in technology. She emphasized that the need is there, people are being affected, and there are many cases showing this. She highlighted the need for change, pressing the fact that unconventional uses are being protected, yet translations and other visual yet non-romanized word marks are not being protected.