A recent story in the London Free Press shows just how powerful Canadian trade-marks are becoming throughout the world – causing a country half a world away to drop a tree design that it had recently chosen to be the symbol for its latest tourism campaign. A similar tree design is the subject of an Official Mark Request advertised by the Canadian Registrar of Trade-marks at the request of the City of London, Ontario, known primarily, until now, as a centre for the insurance industry in Canada and as a University town. The design appears prominently on the City of London’s website.
Once notice of adoption and use of an Official Mark by a public authority has been advertised by the Registrar, the effect is that no other person is entitled, without the consent of that public authority, to adopt, use or register, in Canada, a mark that resembles the Official Mark, regardless of what wares or services that Official Mark is used in association with. The effect of such status is, however, limited to Canada.
Lithuania recently held a contest to choose a new symbol for its tourism campaign. The unofficial winner was submitted by a local advertising business. The winning design contains a tree design similar to the City of London’s tree design. Once this similarity was brought to the attention of the Lithuanian authorities, they, being courteous and perhaps overly cautious people, sought the consent of the City of London to use the tree design.
Curiously, the response from the City of London was apparently a statement that such use would constitute infringement of the Official Mark – it’s not clear if they meant copyright or trade-mark infringement. Hard to reconcile that response with the territorial limitations of London’s Official Mark, at least on the trade-mark front, but the ever polite Lithuanians have apparently decided to ditch the tree design and run another contest. They say that they want something unique (which begs the question, why choose a tree design in the first place?) and don’t want to step on any political toes. The only problem is that the winner of the contest that submitted the tree design is now insisting it didn’t copy the design and is threatening to sue if their design is not chosen the winner.