The origins of poutine, a Canadian delicacy, is hotly contested. According to broadly-accepted local legend, it was first concocted in 1957, in a small dairy-farming town of Warwick, Quebec. But other small towns in the Province of Quebec have also claimed to be the true birthplace of the iconic dish. One fact certainly isn’t up for debate: this hearty snack, a holy union of fries, gravy and cheese curds, generates serious revenue for businesses. The national love affair with poutine is essential to the bottom line of restaurants that sell the dish, those who prepare gravy mixtures, the potato growers who supply the raw potatoes, and the dairy farmers who provide the cheese curds. Ordering poutine during La Poutine Week® got us at Durand Lawyers thinking; how are trademarks linked to this delightful dish?
Poutine varietals and combinations
Let’s take a quick step back and examine how a poutine could be distinguished from another, beyond the quality of its parts. By the early 2000s, poutine had outgrown its humble beginnings. No longer was it merely a “simple” combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds. It began appearing in novel forms on the menus of gourmet restaurants, the foundational ingredients topped with foie gras, lobster, steak, truffles, and other luxurious fare. Liberties were taken with the sauce used, with Bolognese sauce, vegan sauces, and other options replacing the traditional gravy. It is this newfound variety which saw the market for poutine take off.
Why trademarks? Fierce competition in the poutine space
Is it all gravy? The sheer size of the poutine market and the revenue potential represented by Canadians’ constant cravings, means that many are eager to cash in on this savory treat. With so many products in the market, a crucial way of distinguishing one’s unique recipe and quality from those of competitors is to file trademarks, whether words, designs, or others, to protect their brand and highlight their distinct flavour to consumers. Some are already ahead of the pack. Indeed, as of January 2021, the Canadian trademark register contains 433 instances, this could mean word and design trademarks registrations and/or applications, with references to the word “poutine” in their statement(s) of goods and/or services. These appear along with other words, such as: fries, onion rings, etc. As an example, Cholestérol Plus Inc.’s, the owner of chain restaurant Frites Alors!®, and Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc., have both made sure to get in early, respectively obtaining a design trademark for Poutine Alors!®  and the sentence “How do you like your poutine?” ®.
Considering the number of trademarks on the Canadian trademark register, new trademark applicants such as restaurants and manufacturers offering goods and/or services related to poutine will have to navigate through choppy waters to find clever trademarks that will allow them to capture more market share. This has become all the more challenging now that the love of poutine is no longer confined to the Province of Québec but has expanded across Canada and beyond.
Looks like there are more stops ahead for this gravy train!
We’re not sorry, it’s in the title. You should always expect some cheese in your poutine.
For more information on the benefits of trademarks, please consult our trademark FAQ, and do not hesitate to contact us at Durand Lawyers should you require legal advice with respect to your brand.
Third Party Trademarks
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 https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/history-of-poutine; see also https://www.macleans.ca/society/the-history-of-poutine-how-it-became-our-most-iconic-dish/ (published June 18, 2017).
 http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/viewTrademark?id=1681247&tab=reg&lang=eng; and http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/viewTrademark?id=1681246&tab=reg&lang=eng, among other trademarks.