Copyright? Wrong! Oshawa Councillor Misses the “Mark”

An Oshawa, Ontario Regional Councillor, Robert Lutczyk, recently made a brazen attempt to claim copyright in the name “University of Ontario Institute of Technology”. Lutczyk registered copyright in the name of the University and then tried to use his registration to prevent the publication "Oshawa This Week" from using the name in an article, threatening legal action if they did not comply. Lutczyk’s attempt to assert copyright appears wrong on several points.

First, there is no copyright in a name. Copyright in Canada is governed by the Copyright Act and arises in literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. A name, without more, does not fall under the definition of a work. Read more

Flattery is Still Infringement

A story in the Globe and Mail this week illustrates that the use of a popular logo may be a form of flattery to the owner, but the owner will still be concerned about infringement of its IP rights. Gordon DeRosa, after 21 years of public service, is again running for re-election to the Trail City Council, Trail being a community of 8000 in the interior of British Columbia. Mr. DeRosa’s election signs used the well known Energizer Bunny, and the slogan “Re-elect DeRosa, Still Energized”. The Eveready Battery Company, which owns an extensive trademark portfolio in Canada, sent a cease and desist letter to Mr. DeRosa, advising that the use of the Energizer trademarks constituted violations of the company’s IP rights. Mr. DeRosa has taken down his election signs.

If a lawsuit had ensued it might have been argued that Mr. DeRosa was not using any trademarks in association with wares and services since he was running for political office, but presumably Eveready would have succeeded on the basis of copyright infringement.

CIPO’s Electronic Services Outage

For those of us who have embraced – and perhaps take for granted – the ease and convenience of filing documents online with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the last two days have been trying ones. All systems of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, including the Trademark Database as well as the Online Filing Portal, were offline from late in the afternoon on September 30th, until earlier this morning, October 2nd. (Even now, the site seems a little shaky: pages load properly one minute and are unavailable the next.)

Recently released trade-mark statistics (which we blogged about a few months back) indicate that just over 45,000 applications were filed in the last twelve-month period for which stats are available. Of these, 90% were filed online. Crunching the numbers, that works out to be approximately 110 applications filed online, each day. Read more

Latest Olympics Trademark Dust Up Is Of Anthemic Proportions

A Canadian Press Story today reports that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (VANOC) has recently filed applications with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) to register the phrases WITH GLOWING HEARTS and DES PLUS BRILLIANTS EXPLOITS as trademarks. These applications are filed based on proposed use in Canada in association with a lengthy shopping list of goods and services. They also claim priority from earlier filed European Community Trademark (CTM) applications, filed with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in March of 2008. Interestingly, the CTM applications are filed in the name of Filemot Technology Law Ltd. and not VANOC.

Canadian readers will immediately recognize WITH GLOWING HEARTS and DES PLUS BRILLIANTS EXPLOITS as phrases from “O Canada”, the Canadian national anthem. Copyright buffs out there might already know that the anthem was long ago placed in the public domain by the Government of Canada pursuant to the National Anthem Act. Read more

Hyundai Keeps On Motoring

An update on a battle we previously blogged about: the fight between, in one corner, Hyundai Auto Canada, a division of Hyundai Motor America (“Hyundai Canada”); and in the other corner, Cross Canada Auto Body Supply (West) Limited, Cross Canada Auto Body Supply (Windsor) Limited and AT Pac West Auto Parts Enterprise Ltd. (together, for the sake of brevity, the “Resellers”).

You may recall that in that case, the Resellers were re-selling automotive parts and accessories, including Hyundai automotive parts and accessories, in Canada. The Resellers sought expungement of five Hyundai-related marks in Canada owned by Hyundai Canada, claiming that all of the marks were non-distinctive, and further claiming that three of the marks had been abandoned.

(This central action spawned several others: in one, Hyundai Canada sought – though ultimately failed to obtain – an injunction to preclude the Resellers’ use of the Hyundai-related marks on the automotive parts packaging they offered for sale.  Other related actions included disagreements over the production of documents, and the appropriateness of photocopying and other charges.) Read more

Trademark Use Not to Be Inferred: Section 45

In past blogs, we have discussed various Federal Court decisions made pursuant to section 45 of the Trade-marks Act, which is intended to be a summary and expeditious procedure for cleaning up the trade-mark register of trade-marks that have fallen into disuse.

In Grapha-Holding AG v. Illinois Tool Works Inc. the Federal Court, Trial Division allowed an appeal from the Registrar of Trade-marks, finding that the evidence the Registrar relied upon did not support her conclusion that the trademark in issue had been used during the previous three-year period. Read more

Trademark Expungement Despite Plans for Future Use

In Scott Paper Limited v. Smart & Biggar, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a string of case law that deviated from the wording of section 45. The appellate court agreed with the trial judge that the Registrar erred in deciding not to expunge the trade-mark “VANITY” despite 13 years of non-use. We previously discussed different aspects of this “use-it or lose-it” provision.

The issue in this case was whether plans to use the trademark in the immediate future saved an unused trademark from expungement. In determining that future use amounted to special circumstances, the Registrar purported to rely on the three criteria laid down in Registrar of Trade-marks v. Harris Knitting Mills, namely the length of time during which the trademark has not been in use, whether reasons for the absence were due to circumstances beyond the control of the owner, and a serious intention to shortly resume use.

However, the Federal Court of Appeal found that the Registrar was “in fact, relying upon the gloss put upon Harris Knitting Mills in … Lander Co v. Alex E MacRae and Co.. Later in the Scott Paper judgment, the Federal Court of Appeal explained that “[i]t is important to distinguish between explaining an absence of use and excusing an absence of use”. Thus, special circumstances must explain the absence of use and the three criteria are used to determine if the absence is excused. Read more