Intellectual Property

Design students learn value of branding

By Staff

Lawyers can help make the law more accessible to future generations by presenting to high school students, Toronto intellectual property lawyer Taras Kulish tells

Kulish, a senior associate with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, recently addressed a group of Grade 11 and 12 students in the Design Studio CyberARTS program at Toronto’s Western Technical-Commercial College, talking them through the history of branding and the value of trademarks.

“I do think more lawyers should speak to groups of students of that age because that’s how we can get people interested in the law and to understand it a bit better,” says Kulish, whose daughter attends the program in a younger age group.

“This is a great time to introduce students to some of these concepts. For kids entering into the field of design, some of their work could very well touch on trademarks,” adds Kulis, who says he was impressed by the group’s enthusiasm and engagement in the subject.

“They had lots of interesting questions — they wanted to know whether you can trademark colours or sounds, and how different one design has to be from another for it to be safe,” he says.

Kulish says he used the opportunity to explain the concept of the “ordinary hurried consumer” that is at the heart of the test for whether one mark infringes on another by creating confusion between them.

But the presentation took students back even further, travelling thousands of years into history when the brands of the day were ancient royal seals. One of the earliest known seals, a roaring lion representing a minister from the Kingdom of Judah, was discovered in 1904, and dated from the 8th Century B.C.

From there, he traced the evolution of trademarks through the centuries, stopping off at particularly important points such as the influential Bauhaus school in Germany, without which Kulish says some of the most famous trademarks in the world would simply not exist, including marks and symbols belonging to Microsoft, Google, IBM and UPS.

Another key moment arrived in 1875 when the U.K.’s Trademark Act established the first controlled central registry that recognized trademarks as exclusive property. Beer company Bass went down in history as the first registrant for its trademarked red triangle.

“That was probably of more interest to the teachers than the students, though they were interested in how modern that first registered design looked, Kulish says.

Looking forward, Kulish says that in the social media age, straightforward designs tend to come out on top, and he urged them to keep it simple.

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