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Pictures, vignettes, logos and trademarks on food labels

A trademark (definition) is a word (or words), design, or a combination of these, to identify the goods or services of one person or organization. A trademark could include any brand name, trade name (definition), logo, slogan, third party proprietary mark, etc. that is used to brand or advertise a product, as described in the Trademarks Act.

Trademarks may or may not be registered; this process is not mandatory. However, when trademarks, corporate names or labels are registered, the registration does not prevent the CFIA from enforcing legislation under its jurisdiction when the trademark violates any relevant provisions.

For more information on trademarks or other types of intellectual property, refer to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Use of trademarks in food labelling or advertising

The use of trademarks in labelling and advertising food sold in Canada must comply with applicable federal food legislation, including the FDA and the SFCA.

Trademarks are often used on food products as claims relating to:

  • the character, quality, quantity or composition of the food
  • the method of production of the food
  • the geographical origin of the food, or
  • the relationship between consumption of the food or an ingredient in the food and health

These claims, expressed or implied, must not be applied in a manner that is false, misleading, or likely to create an erroneous impression with consumers.

For example, depending on the product, the word "fresh" in a product's brand name might be determined to be misleading to consumers if it implies that food itself is fresh when it is not. Generally, the word "fresh" implies that food is not canned, cured, dehydrated, frozen or otherwise processed or preserved.

Trademarks used to make a claim may also trigger additional labelling requirements. For example, in some situations, when a trademark implies a nutrition content claim, the product may be required to declare nutrition information, even though previously exempted. In addition, if a trademark includes or implies a health-related claim, it is subject to specific requirements. For more information, refer to Reasons for losing the exemption and Health claims.

Government of Canada trademarks

Official symbols of the government, such as the Canadian flag, national emblem or crest, Health Canada or CFIA logo are ordinary trademarks that are protected against unauthorized use in Canada under paragraph 9(1)(n) of Canada's Trademarks Act, and protected internationally under article 6ter of the Paris Convention. As such, industry is not permitted to use the CFIA's trademark name (CFIA.ACIA) or terms closely resembling it (specifically, "CFIA" or "Canadian Food Inspection Agency") on product labels or in advertisements without express written consent from the CFIA.

For more information, refer to National symbols.

Inspection marks

Inspection marks are prescribed marks, stamps, seals, product legends, words or designs, or any combination of those. These include inspection legends and product legends (referred to as the Canada organic logo) which are set out in Schedules 2 and 9 of the SFCR and are prescribed for the purposes of the definition of inspection mark in section 2 of SFCA. It is prohibited for a person to apply or use these inspection marks, unless specifically authorized by the SFCR [2, 14, SFCA; 179, 358, SFCR].

Inspection legends are used for fish, meat products and processed egg products.

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