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.

More Beer Brand Wars

You can tell that it’s Fall up here in the Great White North.  The weather is turning cooler, the NHL preseason is in full swing and another trademark battle between Canadian brewery icons Molson and Labatts has started. 

A recent report indicates that Molson Coors Brewing Company has launched a lawsuit in Canada’s Federal Court against Labatt Breweries of Canada, claiming that the mountain imagery in new ads for Labatt Kokanee beer infringes the copyrighted images that Molson uses on its Coors Light beer products in Canada.  Molson is reportedly seeking $10 million in damages.

For its part, Labatts says that mountain imagery has been part of its branding for four decades and that the new graphics feature the same Kokanee Glacier that the beer is named after.

Trademark Clearinghouse To Help Combat Cybersquatting?

A story earlier this week reported that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the organization charged with oversight of the Internet, including the creation of new generic top level domains (gTLD’s) – is considering setting up a centralized database of trademarks to help combat cybersquatting and other negative domain name registration practices.  The proposed IP Clearinghouse would be a depository for trademarks and provide unified rules for trademark holders to block domain name registrations that include use of such trademarks, unless the applicant can prove that its proposed use will be legitimate.

This proposal will be closely monitored by the trademark community as ICANN continues to move forward with its controversial proposal to exponentially expand the number of gTLDs.  The concern of trademark holders is that the task of protecting their brands online, which is already difficult enough with the existing gTLDs, will become prohibitively expensive.

The idea of the IP Clearinghouse was one of the recommendations outlined in the Final Report on Trademark Protection of ICANN’s  Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT).  At the recent ICANN meeting in Sydney, the IRT presented its report. The IRT Final Report was open for public comment until June 29, 2009.   ICANN might not make a final decision on the idea until late 2009, at which time it could potentially decide on a variation of the IP Clearinghouse, depending on the public comments that it receives.

Though it appears to be a moving target at the moment, the launch of the new gTLDs could potentially take place as early as February or March of 2010.

Breweries Battle Over Ontario

In yet another Canadian trademark dispute involving alcoholic beverages – seems to be a bit of a trend lately – Ontario based Brick Brewing Co. Limited has issued an announcement that Labatt Brewing Company Limited has commenced an action in Canada’s Federal Court against Brick, alleging that Brick’s RED BARON trademark infringes Labatt’s BRAVA trademark.  While these marks, taken by themselves, seem quite different, the dispute focuses on the similarities between the labels and packaging used with these products, along with the similarity of the bottles.

In an interesting side bar, Labatt has a significant ownership interest in Ontario’s “The Beer Store” which is by far the largest retail channel for beer in Canada’s most populous province.  As such, Labatt indirectly receives fees from Red Brick in order to display its RED BARON lager in a lobby display program at The Beer Store, as well as fees to sort RED BARON bottles, which are non-industry standard.  Brick argues that because of the set up of The Beer Store, where more popular brands such as those sold by Labatt are featured more prominently, consumers generally have to ask for Brick’s products, such as RED BARON, by name, thereby lessening any likelihood of confusion.

You Can’t Judge A Wine By It’s Label…

… but you sure can increase sales, or at least improve visibility in a very crowded market.  In a recent story in the Globe and Mail, the author discusses the well documented success of such British Columbia wineries as DIRTY LAUNDRY and LAUGHING STOCK, who re-branded with the help of local wine branding gurus Brandever Strategy Inc. The author then notes the recent attempts by more traditional French wineries, such as Bouchard Père & Fils, to capitalize on the trend away from more traditional wine labels, as a way to increase visibility and hopefully market share.

Canadian Distiller Wins Latest Round In Trademark Battle

Just in time for Robbie Burns day, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that a Canadian distiller of whiskey can use the word GLEN in its trademark, without misleading Canadian consumers into thinking that its product is whiskey that is from Scotland.  This is the latest round in the battle by Bedford, Nova Scotia based Glenora Distillers to register the mark GLEN BRETON in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in association with its single malt whiskey.  There’s no word yet on whether the Scotch Whiskey Association will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.