High Hurdles to Olympic Trade-mark Use

With six months left until the start of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, it seems appropriate to highlight another story involving Olympic trademarks.  The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is not the only Olympic Committee vigilantly monitoring the use of Olympics related trade-marks.  A recent bulletin chronicles the steps taken by the US Olympic Committee to protect the word OLYMPIC in the US, including obtaining an injunction against the use by Olympic Supply, Inc. of Maryland of the tradename “Olympic News”.

The bulletin summarizes that, in the US,  specific legislation prevents non-licensed use of the word OLYMPIC unless: (1) there was use with the same goods and services prior to September 21, 1950, or (2) it is obvious that the word refers to the Olympic geographic area named prior to February 6, 1998 and the word relates to goods or services that are marketed in the Olympic area and are not substantially marketed outside of that region.

In Canada, though VANOC has different enforcement tools at its disposal to prevent unauthorized persons from marketing their wares and services in association with the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the results may be largely the same.   For example, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act (which we discussed in a previous post) prohibits any person from adopting or using in connection with a business, as a trademark or otherwise, an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a mark that resembles an Olympic or Paralympic mark.  Lists of prohibited marks (including, of course, OLYMPIC) are set out in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Act.

The Act also prohibits anyone from promoting or otherwise directing public attention to a business in such manner as to lead the public into believing that there is a connection with the Canadian Olympic Committee or Canadian Paralympic Committee.   Perhaps most notably, this Act permits VANOC to obtain an interim injunction against alleged infringers without proof of irreparable harm, which is a significant and unprecedented advantage. Read more

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: CIPO Changes Section 45 Procedures

It’s been a busy year for CIPO, and the organization is yet again amending some of its practices.  This time it has s. 45 in its sights.

As regular readers know, s. 45 of the Trade-marks Act provides a mechanism by which an interested party can seek to summarily expunge a registered trade-mark for three years of non-use.  CIPO sought public input on a proposed changes to s. 45 practice earlier this year, and last week introduced its new practice notice, which is slated to come into effect on September 14, 2009.

Like the recent changes to Opposition proceedings, the changes to s. 45 practice appear aimed at streamlining the process.  Most notably, the planned changes limit the extensions of time available for the submission of evidence.  The current standard is an extension of three months with additional extensions available on consent or if exceptional circumstances are shown.  The new standard provides for one extension of four months, and establishes that grants of additional extensions will be rare: neither the the consent of the parties to additional extensions, nor the parties’ engagement in settlement discussions  will be seen by the Office as sufficient reason to provide additional time. Read more

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes!

Following up on one of our earlier posts, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office recently adopted a couple of revisions to its examination practices.

Since June 17, the Office has been providing six month periods to respond to Examiner objections, as opposed to the four month window previously provided.  In addition, the Office is no longer issuing ‘doubtful case’ or ‘courtesy letters’ – those letters that were sent to trade-mark applicants identifying co-pending applications for allegedly confusing marks having a later entitlement date.

This latter change reinforces the importance of both having watch services in place, and regularly reviewing the Trade-marks Journal for the advertisement of marks of interest.

…and then quickly wanes.

An update to the post below: the Supreme Court of Canada announced this morning that the Scotch Whiskey Association has been unsuccessful in obtaining leave to appeal before the Court.  A panel of three judges dismissed the Association’s leave request, with costs.

As such, the decision from the Court of Appeal will stand: Glenora Distillers will be permitted to register its application for GLEN BRETON.

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes? CIPO’s Client Consultations Continue

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has engaged in a number of client consultations recently.  Considering changes to Section 45 practice, changes to practice before the Opposition Board – even changes to the method by which it publishes practice notices – CIPO has been soliciting client and stakeholder views.  (On the Opposition point, CIPO’s changes to practice before the Board came into effect on March 31, 2009.)

CIPO is now engaged in a new consultation – this one concerning three separate issues.  The first concerns deadlines for responding to Examiner reports.  CIPO is proposing to extend the deadline for responding to such reports from four to six months.

The second concerns deadlines for responding to CIPO’s requests for outstanding information concerning transfers.  Here, CIPO is proposing doing away with such deadlines altogether, though of course the transfer will not be effected it CIPO’s records until all required materials have been provided. Read more

CIPO Releases Its Plan

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office recently released its 2009-2010 Business Plan to the public. The Plan is designed to direct CIPO toward its goal to “be a leading intellectual property office that is recognized for excellence in its products and services while strengthening Canada’s innovative capacity through ongoing quality improvement and continuous development of employees.”

For trademark practitioners, owners and other stakeholders, the Plan contains a few interesting tidbits:

  • the Trade-mark Opposition Board plans to establish a new service standard of four months from the date of a hearing for the issuance of final decisions of the Registrar in both section 45 and opposition cases;
  • the Board also plans to use 2009 to create an action plan relating to the goal of making section 45 and opposition case decisions available online;
  • similarly, CIPO as a whole will use 2009 to assess activities and determine requirements related to planned support of:
  • the online filing of extension of time requests for the Trade-marks Opposition Board;
  • the online filing of extension of time requests at the examination stage for trade-marks;
  • certain enhancements to the electronic application filing system for trade-marks; and
  • the electronic transmission of examiner’s reports and trade-mark correspondence.

The Trade-marks Branch also plans to conduct a feasibility assessment related to the prospective implementation of a program to assist unrepresented owners seeking trade-mark protection, similar to programs currently offered by each of UK’s Intellectual Property Office and IP Australia.

Oily Loonie offside Official Mark?

Dogwood Initiative, a British Columbia environmental group, is facing legal action from the Royal Canadian Mint over a campaign to add one million oily loon decals to loonies in circulation.  (For our international readers, “loonie” is the commonly used term used to refer to the Canadian one dollar coin.)  Dogwood’s campaign is intended to create awareness about the risks of oil tanker traffic on BC’s north central coast, in the hopes that legislation might be passed banning such traffic.

The Royal Canadian Mint has alleged Dogwood Initiative’s activities bring it offside the Currency Act, but query whether the Mint may also have an action under the Canadian Trade-marks Act (the "Act"), for infringement of the Mint’s Official Mark rights in the loonie.

Section 9 of the Act deals with Official Marks, and in particular, it prohibits the adoption in connection with a business, as a trade-mark or otherwise, of any mark which consists of, or so nearly resembles as to be mistaken for, an Official Mark. Read more