Montreal firm launches trademark searching tool

CI Sense has launched a Web-based tool aimed at businesses looking to keep tabs on their competition’s trademark filings.

The Montreal-based competitive intelligence firm, a subsidiary of TowerGate Software Inc., said it wants to move its trademark watch services away from the legal-centric tools currently on the market, and instead focus on giving users a competitive advantage.

“The classifications (around trademarks) that are typically used are very broad,” Tev Kofsky, president and founder at CI Sense, said. “You might have one class, which governs practically all of technology, so whether a company is releasing a new laptop or a new scientific instrument, it will all be classified in the same category.”

According to CI Sense, the tool uses a combination of human input and natural language algorithms to group trademark filings into detailed sub-categories. “So if a filing is described as a ‘drink to enhance sports performance,’ we’ll know to categorize that as an energy drink,” he added.

Searches can be done by category, industry or company name, and is free to users looking to search trademarks filed over a one week period. Companies that want to search for a month long period, as well as gain access to detailed trademark information, can expect to pay $175 for a year-long subscription.

For those looking to avoid manual searches altogether, CI Sense’s watch list feature – which costs $90 per year – will provide users with a weekly report about new filings that match their predetermined search criteria.

“You might just be interested in new players, so you could get a report that tells you anytime a new company files a trademark within your industry,” Kofsky said. “It’s a really useful tool in identifying who you might have to compete with in the future.”

Unfortunately, for companies looking to search globally or even within Canada, CI Sense might be a disappointment. The service is based solely on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office listings.

“For most North American players, they will file in the U.S. first, and than seek protection in other countries later on,” Kofsky said. He added that plans to add Canadian-based searches were in the works.

David Canton, a London, Ont.-based business lawyer and trademark agent with Harrison Pensa LLP, said while CI Sense shouldn’t be the only tool a company uses to keep tabs on the competition, the low price point could make it an interesting service for SMBs.

“It may not be a huge identifier of trends or product ideas, but it’s certainly a way to figure out what your competition is doing,” he said. Long before the iPhone came out, people were trolling the trademark registries around the world to try and see what Apple was up to, Canton added. Whether companies see the CI Sense tool as a valuable proposition, he said, is based on how much time they want to dedicate to trademark searches.

“You can go into the Canadian trademarks database at any time and search by owner name and description, so it’s very easy for anyone to go online and do the trademark searches for free,” he said. But the fact that it’s a “one-stop” tool, that appears to have a user friendly interface, he added, might make it attractive to some companies.

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