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

Official Marks: Federal Court Confirms Clear Evidence of Use Required

In a recent decision, See You In – Canadian Athletes Fund Corporation v. Canadian Olympic Committee, the Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the decision of the application judge which we reported on last May.

The Court of Appeal also concluded that the Canadian Olympic Committee (“the COC”) had not proved use of its official marks, “See You in Torino”, “See You in Beijing” and “See You in Vancouver”, because there was no clear evidence of a public display of the marks at issue and the COC’s evidence on this point was equivocal at best.

The appellant, See You In – Canadian Athletes Fund (“the SYI Fund”) argued, even though it was successful before the application judge, that the judge should not have dismissed its argument that the COC was a licensee of the International Olympic Committee and could therefore not register the official marks. The Court of Appeal declined to consider this argument noting that where an appellant obtains the relief sought, the appellant is not normally allowed to appeal the judge’s reasons. A decision on this point would have been useful to the SYI Fund, and presumably others seeking to challenge official marks registered by the COC.

Opposition and Expungement Proceeding Info Added to CIPO’s Online Database

Following up on an announcement we told you about a few weeks ago, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has now added information respecting pending trademark opposition and Section 45 (summary expungement) proceedings to its online database.

Working with the information over the last several days, our experience has been that it is a little out of date, relative to the actual status of proceedings. Nonetheless, CIPO’s decision to enhance public access to this information will be beneficial to trademark owners, brand advisors, and their counsel.

Trademark Statistics: The Year in Review

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office released its 2006-7 Annual Report earlier today. The report contains some interesting information:

  • over 45,000 applications were filed in the twelve month period ending March 31, 2007, reflecting a 4% increase over the previous year
  • Canada remains the most common country of applicant origin, with nearly 20,000 applications filed; the US placed second, with over 14,700 applications, while applicants from Germany, France and the United Kingdom rounded out the top 5
  • 90% of Canadian trade-mark applications were filed online; prior to 2004, only 20% of applicants were using the e-filing system
  • despite the addition of several new Examiners, turn-around times remained the same as in the previous year, and an examination backlog of approximately 20,000 files remains to be addressed
  • the number of Statements of Oppositions filed continued to decline, with just over 1100 filings; however, the number of Section 45 (cancellation) notices issued increased slightly over the previous year.

The full report is available here.

Canadian Intellectual Property Office News

Good news from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office: in an announcement posted to their website yesterday, CIPO advised that it will soon be making information concerning the status of both Section 45 proceedings and Opposition proceedings available online.

Currently, CIPO’s database provides limited information to the public respecting Trademark Opposition proceedings, setting out only the names of the Opponent and their counsel, and the date the Opposition was filed. The situation for Section 45 (or summary cancellation) proceedings is worse for those, the database indicates only the name of the Section 45 Requestor and their counsel, and does not even indicate when the Section 45 request was issued. In neither case is information about the current stage of the proceeding available through the database; for a member of the public to get such information they would have to perform a manual review of the physical file located at CIPO’s office in Gatineau, Quebec.

The addition of further information relating to these proceedings will permit interested third parties to make better informed decisions concerning the mark(s) at issue, allowing them to consider the impact such proceedings may have on their own interests. While CIPO has a long way to go before matching the standards set by the USPTO Trademark Office and its excellent Trademark Document Retrieval system, this step is an important one and CIPO should be applauded.