Consultation by CIPO on Madrid and Singapore Treaties

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) recently launched a new consultation on possible Canadian accession to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (the Madrid Protocol) and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (the Singapore Treaty).

This is not the first time CIPO has looked at the issue of Canada acceding to the Madrid Protocol.  Five years ago a similar consultation took place.   In response to a request for input, CIPO received feedback  from the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada and from the International Trademark Association, though no further action was taken by CIPO at that time.

According to CIPO’s backgrounder to the current consultation, the intervening five years have seen important trading partners such as the United States join both the Madrid Protocol and the Singapore Treaty.  As a result, according to CIPO, Canada is increasingly seen as isolated in its trademark laws and practices. Read more

No Trademark Expungement Although Language Describing Wares Outdated

Loro Piana S.P.A. v. Canadian Council of Professional Engineers is a further example of the importance of providing proper evidence in response to a Registrar’s notice requiring evidence of use within the previous three years pursuant to the summary expungement provisions in section 45 of the Trade-marks Act. The Applicant had, in 1989, registered the trademark ING. LORO PIANA & C. for use in association with “textile fabrics, bed covers, blankets, scarves, mufflers, shawls and gloves”. On the basis of the affidavit submitted by the Applicant, the Hearing Officer concluded that use of the mark in association with “textile fabrics” had been shown, but not use in association with the remaining wares.

On appeal to the Federal Court, Trial Division, the Applicant filed further evidence and the Court, applying a standard of correctness, concluded that use of the mark in association with each of the listed wares had been shown. In doing so, the Court was also satisfied that the sale of “stoles” constituted the sales of “mufflers” and that the sale of “bed covers” or “blankets” constituted the sale of “throws”. The Applicant provided evidence explaining its use of the terms.

The Court referred to the 2006 decision of Levi Strauss & Co. v. Canada (Registrar of Trade-marks) which held that a section 45 proceeding is intended to be a simple, expeditious procedure to get rid of “deadwood” and is not intended to be a meticulous verbal analysis and stated, “where the language used to describe a ware has changed with common usage, but the use of the trade-mark has continued, the use of the outmoded word will be allowed to remain”.

The Court was also satisfied that while the use of the trademark deviated slightly from the trademark as registered, the differences were unimportant and would not mislead an unaware purchaser.

Court Considers Colour Marks

Peak Innovations Inc. (the “Applicant”) filed 31 applications to register trademarks for various of its products, namely wood to wood and concrete and masonry connectors, most of which are used in deck building. A competitor, Simpson Strong-Tie Company Inc. (the “Opponent”) filed statements of opposition in respect of all 31 applications.

On appeal, the Federal Court recently considered two of the applications agreeing with the Opposition Board and dismissing the appeals. At issue were a mark for the colour green (Application 1,187,491) and a mark for the colour greyish-green (PANTONE 5635C) (Application 1,205,529), both as applied to fastener brackets, claiming use in association with fastener brackets for attaching deck boards.

The Opponent filed additional evidence on its appeal to the Federal Court, but the Court did not agree there was evidence of third parties in the Canadian marketplace using grey or khaki green on items for purposes that included deck building. Thus, there was no confusion.

The Court also refused to consider the Opponent’s arguments concerning non-distinctiveness, since those allegations were raised for the first time on appeal, and “while a party is open to raise new evidence on appeal, it cannot raise new issues”.

The Court also concluded that the mark was not purely or primarily functional. The Opponent, based on certain statements made during the course of cross-examination, argued that green or greyish coating was added to products primarily to reduce corrosion. However, the Court noted that the coating could be produced in many colours and, following the decision of the Federal Court in Smith, Kline & French Canada Ltd. v. Registrar, concluded that “colour applied to the whole of the visible surface of an object can function as a trademark”.

Trademark Confusion: Possible Future Confusion Not Relevant

In a recent decision of Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal, Masterpiece Inc. v. Alavida Lifestyles Inc. the Appellant sought to expunge the Respondent’s registered trademark MASTERPIECE LIVING pursuant to section 18(1)(a) of the Trade-marks Act alleging that it was unregistrable as of the date of registration because it was confusing with the Appellant’s use of the same mark or similar marks.

Both the Appellant and Respondent operated in the retirement residence industry. The Respondent applied to register MASTERPIECE LIVING on December 1, 2005 on the basis of proposed use and began using the mark in January 2006. The application was granted in March 2007. The Appellant alleged it had used a series of evolving trademarks with the word “Masterpiece” beginning in 2001, and began using MASTERPIECE LIVING either in December 2005 or February 2006, depending on which exhibit was consulted. It applied to register the mark on June 29, 2006, but the application was denied on the basis that the Respondent had already applied to register the mark.

Whether the Respondent’s mark was unregistrable as of the date of registration turned on section 16(3)(a) of the Trade-marks Act which allows an applicant who has filed on the basis of proposed use to secure its registration “unless at the date of filing of the application it was confusing with (a) a trademark that had been previously used in Canada or made known in Canada by another person”. Read more

Additional Evidence and Relevant Dates on Trademark Appeals

In Advance Magazine Publishers, Inc. v. Wise Gourmet Inc. the publisher of GOURMET magazine successfully appealed a decision of the Trade-mark Opposition Board that the use of WISE GOURMET in association with various food products and printed publications, namely cookbooks, newsletters, nutrition guides, food recipes and periodicals relating to food and nutrition was not confusing with the use of GOURMET in association with magazines and other publications.  On appeal to the Federal Court, Advance Magazine Publishers, the original Opponent, submitted two lengthy affidavits that were not before the Trade-mark Opposition Board.  Although the original Applicant chose not to participate in the appeal, the Court noted that its position still had to be considered.

Given the new evidence the appeal proceeded on a de novo, or fresh, basis and applying the test for confusion set out in sections 6(2) and (5) of the Trade-marks Act, the Court concluded there was confusion, such that WISE GOURMET could not be registered.  Although GOURMET was not inherently distinctive, its use over time had gained the Opponent a certain reputation in relation to its magazine and associated wares and services.  The mark had also been in use for a long time, while the Applicant was a new entry into the market.  The nature of the wares and services and the nature of the trade were similar.  There was also a fair degree of resemblance between the two marks since the Applicant had incorporated the Opponent’s mark, GOURMET, in its entirety, into WISE GOURMET.  While the first word, “wise”, helped distinguish the marks to some degree in terms of sound and appearance, the idea suggested by both marks was similar. 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.