Canada’s Trademark Opposition Practice Changing Again?

In case you missed it: the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has commenced a public consultation session concerning possible changes in practice before the Trademark Opposition Board.

These proposed changes follow on the heels of – and are likely motivated by – changes introduced to Opposition Board practice last fall. Many practitioners were surprised by those changes, and found frustration in some of the ambiguities contained in that Practice Notice, issued nearly a year ago.

The newly proposed Notice appears designed to remedy these problems: it provides greater clarity with respect to the number of available extensions and the possible duration thereof, and offers extensive guidance concerning the nature of the “exceptional circumstances” required to obtain an extension at certain stages of a proceeding. Read more

Apple To Launch iPhone In Canada Amid Trademark Dispute

Notwithstanding an ongoing trademark dispute, Apple Inc’s iPhone is scheduled to launch in Canada later this year. The service will be offered by Rogers Communications Inc., the only Canadian carrier using the Global System Mobile (GSM) communications standard needed to run iPhone. The device has sold more than five million units worldwide since its launch in 2007.

We previously reported on the challenges facing Apple in seeking to register the IPHONE trademark in Canada. Apple applied to register the trademark in October of 2004 on a proposed use basis but the application was opposed by Comwave Telecom Inc., who claim to have been using the trademark in Canada since June 2004.  Comwave filed an application to register the trademark in November 2005. If Comwave can prove that it has prior use of the trademark, and that Apple’s IPHONE trademark will cause confusion in the market place, then Apple’s application could be refused.

More recently, both Apple and Comware filed additional applications in Canada and two new applications to register trademarks containing the term iPhone, and, have been filed by third parties. A Delaware-based company called Ocean Telecom also applied to register an iPhone trademark in July 2007 but this application was subsequently assigned to Apple.

Apple was previously involved in a dispute with Cisco Systems in the United States regarding ownership of the IPHONE trademark. The dispute was settled when the parties agreed to share the trademark.

Round 2 Won By Scotch Whisky Association

As a follow up to earlier postings on the ongoing battle between the Scotch Whisky Association (the “Association”) and the Canadian distillers of GLEN BRETON single malt whisky, the Association is reporting today that it has won its appeal to the Federal Court of Canada.

The Trade-marks Opposition Board denied the Association’s opposition to the application by Glenora Distilleries of Nova Scotia to register the mark GLEN BRETON, on the basis that, in the Opposition Board’s view, Canadians would not be confused by the use of the word GLEN in the mark, such that they would think they were purchasing Scotch Whisky. The Association appealed that decision to the Federal Court.

During the appeal, the Association produced evidence that GLEN BRETON was misdescribed in various retail outlets, newspaper articles, pricelists, menus and websites as a Scotch Whisky and the Federal Court agreed with its submissions that Canadian consumers would likely be confused that they were purchasing a Scotch Whisky when that was not the case.

Stay tuned for Round 3 of this battle, as CBC reports that Glenora Distilleries is already planning to file an appeal of the Federal Court decision.

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 Appeals: Stays and Service Requirements

A recent blog noted that a failure to obtain a stay of a Federal Court judgment when an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal is sought, means the Registrar of Trademarks will act in accordance with the Federal Court judgment, which may be contrary to what the appellant is seeking before the Court of Appeal.

A recent Practice Notice from the Trademarks Office clarifies the issue. Section 50 of the Federal Courts Act allows the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal to stay proceedings. If there is an appeal from the Federal Court to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Registrar, absent a stay, must act in accordance with the judgment of the Federal Court.

There is, however, an exception in the case of opposition and section 45 procedings. If there is an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal the Registrar will not treat the Federal Court decision as final because it must, pursuant to sections 39(1) and 45(5) of the Trade-marks Act, act in accordance with “the final judgment given in the appeal”.

Thus, where there is an appeal from the Federal Court to the Federal Court of Appeal, it is important to consider whether an opposition or section 45 proceeding is at issue, and if not, obtain the requisite stay.

The Practice Notice also provides guidance regarding the service of court documents on the Registrar.

Where a decision of the Registrar is appealed under section 56 of the Trade-marks Act or where judicial review of a Registrar’s decision is sought, the Registrar must be served personally. This is best effected by leaving the document with an employee of the Executive Office who is authorized to accept service.

All Notices of Appeal filed with the Federal Court must also be filed with the Registrar. These may be transmitted by any means, but failure to comply with sections 56(1), (2) and (3) of the Act, including the filing requirement, may render the appeal a nullity.

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.