.CA Dispute Resolution Consultation Now Open

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has initiated a consultation on the CIRA Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (CDRP).  The CDRP has been in place since 2002 and is intended to be a quick, relatively low cost arbitration forum for disputes over .CA domain names.  The stated purpose of the consultation is to solicit feedback from interested parties as to the effectiveness of the CDRP and whether it continues to meet the needs of its stakeholders. 

The consultation consists of a number of questions about the process itself, the tests that a complainant must meet, the remedies provided and the like.  Interestingly, the consultation notes that over the 8 years the CDRP has been in place, there have only been 149 decisions rendered, with the high water mark occurring in 2008, when there were 30 decisions.

The consultation is open from June 9 to September 17, 2010.

Feud Over Family Name Spills Into Federal Court

In a recent decision of the Federal Court Trial Division, the registration of the mark STENNER was expunged on the basis that it was not distinctive. 

STENNER was registered as a trademark in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) in 2005.  The Application, filed in 2003, was objected to by the CIPO Examiner on the basis that the mark was primarily merely the surname of an individual.  That objection was overcome when the Applicant provided sufficient evidence of secondary distinctiveness – i.e. evidence that the mark was recognized as the source of the Applicant’s financial services and newsletters, as much or more than than it was recognized as a surname.  The Application was not opposed by anyone.

The Federal Court found that the evidence established that the registered owner had used the STENNER mark on and off over the years, commencing in the late 1980’s, though rarely, if ever, as a standalone mark and periods of use had been punctuated by lengthy periods of non-use.  In the early 2000’s, the principal of the registered owner had a bitter falling out with his two children who were also in the financial services industry and who also used the STENNER name in association with the performance of their services.  That falling out had been the subject of a separate lawsuit, however the Court in those proceedings specifically declined to rule on the validity of the trademark registration for STENNER.

The application to expunge the registration for STENNER was based on various grounds, but the argument that won the most favour with the Federal Court was that the mark was no longer distinctive (assuming it ever had been), due to extended periods of non-use, lack of use as a standalone mark and the results of expert evidence on the recognition of the mark as a source indicator for the registered owner’s services.   The expert evidence put forward showed that the mark was recognized by virtually no one outside of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and even within that region, the recognition factor was very low.  Also, the use of the same mark by the two children in the same industry and geographic area also pointed to a lack of distinctiveness.

In the end result, the Federal Court ordered the expungement of the registration for the STENNER mark.  There is no indication yet of whether an appeal will be filed, though the deadline for doing so is fast approaching.

When Prior Use is not Prior Use

In an update to an earlier post, the Supreme Court of Canada has recently granted leave to appeal in the case of Masterpiece Inc. v. Alavida Lifestyles Inc.    Both the Federal Court Trial Division and the Federal Court of Appeal held that, in a proceeding to expunge a Registration, the relevant date for determining whether there was confusion with a mark previously used in Canada is the date that the application was filed, and that likelihood of confusion at a point in the future is not a relevant consideration. 

In addition, both of the earlier decisions stated that in order for prior use of a mark in Canada to be grounds for successfully expunging a registration, such prior use must have occurred in the same geographic area where the applicant used its mark; otherwise there could have been no likelihood of confusion at the time the application was filed.   In coming to the latter conclusion, both Courts appear, at least with respect to an action for expungement of a registration, to have imported into the test for likelihood of confusion, the test for common law passing off.   Given this, the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on this issue will be eagerly awaited by practitioners.

CIPO Seeks Consultation On More Proposed Changes

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office recently posted a consultation, requesting comments on three proposed changes to its Office practice.  The proposed changes are all relatively minor, but worth noting.

The first proposed change is that the Registrar will no longer require applicants to confirm that they are a “person” as defined in Section 2 of the Act.  Previously, the Examination Manual has required Examiners to seek confirmation from applicants where it’s not clear from the application that the applicant is a legal entity – for example if a individual files an application under a “doing business as” name rather than under their legal name.  Under the proposed Practice Notice, Examiners will no longer request clarification from the applicant and it will be up to the applicant to ensure that it complies with the Act in this regard.

The second proposed change is in relation to colour claims in applications.  The Act currently provides that unless an application is for a word mark not depicted in a special form (i.e. if the mark is anything other than a word mark in block letters), then the application must contain a drawing of the mark and if colour is claimed as a feature of the mark, the Regulations stipulate that the colour(s) must be described.  Rule 28 of the Regulations provides that if a description of the colour(s) as provided by the applicant is not clear, the Registrar can cause the applicant to provide a drawing of the mark, lined for colour in accordance with a chart that is set out in Rule 28.  This chart contains different lining specifications for all the basic colours but there is no indication of how (or whether) an applicant is to differentiate between different shades/hues of a particular colour – for example there is a specific line drawing for the colour “Blue” (horizontal lines) in Rule 28, but this would apply to light blue, dark blue and everything in between. Read more

Consultation by CIPO on Madrid and Singapore Treaties

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) recently launched a new consultation on possible Canadian accession to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (the Madrid Protocol) and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (the Singapore Treaty).

This is not the first time CIPO has looked at the issue of Canada acceding to the Madrid Protocol.  Five years ago a similar consultation took place.   In response to a request for input, CIPO received feedback  from the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada and from the International Trademark Association, though no further action was taken by CIPO at that time.

According to CIPO’s backgrounder to the current consultation, the intervening five years have seen important trading partners such as the United States join both the Madrid Protocol and the Singapore Treaty.  As a result, according to CIPO, Canada is increasingly seen as isolated in its trademark laws and practices. Read more

VANOC Gets Sour Taste From Lululemon

Vancouver based yoga wear retailing phenom Lululemon Atletica has tweaked the nose of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC), with a new line of clothing. A story yesterday reported that Lululemon has introduced a new line of clothing named “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition”. VANOC reportedly is upset that Lululemon has only complied with the letter and not the spirit of the laws in Canada that protect the various trademarks used to promote the Olympic Games generally, and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games specifically.

The clothing line in question features various items in the national colours of Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Germany. Notably, the Canadian hoodies feature gold zippers while the zippers in the colours of other countries have silver zippers. Lululemon lost out to the Hudson’s Bay Company in its bid to be the official apparel supplier to the Canadian Olympic team for the Summer and Winter Games during the period from 2006 to 2012.

Readers of the Knowledge Bytes newsletter will be aware of the legislative hammers that are at VANOC’s disposal to enforce its trademark rights against both would-be infringers and ambush marketers alike. These include the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, which contains lists of specific words that either can’t be used at all, or that can’t be used in combination with other specific words–for example the combination of “Vancouver” and “2010”. Read more

BTO Members Taking Care of Legal Business

Fans of the 70’s Canadian super group, Bachman Turner Overdrive (also commonly known as BTO), may have noted the report of a legal dispute between current and former band members over the rights to the band’s trademarks.  The mark BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE  is the subject of two registrations in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and there are several pending applications for similar marks. 

While disputes between ex-band mates are not unusual, this one has an added twist in that it pits one brother (Randy Bachman, widely considered the most talented member) versus another (Robbie).

While this appears to be primarily a contractual dispute, the trademark issues are front and centre and serve to highlight the value of branding to musical groups, both during their heydey and into later years when remaining members (and often non-members) continue to live off the avails of a group’s prior glories.

Perhaps one day someone will turn this family feud into a Broadway musical – “Peg Boys” might be a nice nod to the Winnipeg roots of the band.