Maintained by Clark Wilson LLP

Evidentiary Omissions Lead to Trademark Appeal

The recent Federal Court case of Sanders v. Smart & Biggar Intellectual Property and Technology Law is a good example of the difference that well prepared evidence can make.  The Trademarks Opposition Board expunged the applicant’s trade-mark, “UGGLY BOOTS” pursuant to section 45 of the Trade-marks Act because the applicant had not demonstrated use of the trademark in Canada.  The Board found that the applicant’s evidence was “rampant with ambiguities” and omissions. 

The applicant appealed to the Federal Court pursuant to section 56 of the Act.  The applicant was allowed to present new evidence and the appeal was treated as a new hearing.  The applicant’s new evidence consisted of the affidavits of five clients, which all showed the transfer of wares with the trademark.  The affidavits also attached invoices proving the transfers took place.  The Court found that this new evidence went beyond mere allegations of use, noting that the applicant was only required to produce “evidence of a single sale, whether wholesale or retail, in the normal course of trade” so long as the sale was not deliberately manufactured or contrived to protect the registration of the trademark.  In applying the principle of use “in the normal course of trade”, the Court also noted that good faith is presumed when there is no evidence challenging the affiant’s credibility.  Thus, the Court found in the applicant’s favour, something the Board might have done if better evidence had been presented at first instance.

Proposed Practice Notices: Professional Designations and Abbreviations, Acronyms and Initials

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has initiated two short consultations (January 29 to February 28, 2010) for proposed Practice Notices regarding section 12(1)(b) of the Trade-marks Act.  Section 12(1)(b) provides that “a trademark is registrable if it is not, whether depicted, written or sounded, either clearly descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive in the English or French language of the character or quality of the wares or services in association with which it is used or proposed to be used or of the conditions of or the persons employed in their production or of their place of origin”. The two proposed Practice Notices address the application of 12(1)(b) to professional designations and to abbreviations, acronyms and initials.

If research discloses that an applied for trademark consists of a professional designation, the examiner will apply a first impression test to determine whether a consumer would assume the goods and services are produced by a professional with a designation similar to the applied-for trademark and if so, the trademark will be unregistrable, being clearly descriptive of the persons employed in the production of the wares and services.  The addition of an abbreviation, acronym or initial to the professional designation will not make the trademark registrable.

A trademark that consists of or contains an abbreviation, acronym or initial will be considered unregistrable if considered as a whole and if as a matter of first impression the abbreviation, acronym or initial is clearly descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of the wares and services.  Moreover, the addition of an abbreviation, acronym or initial to a clearly descriptive word or phrase will not render it registrable as a trademark.

The changes arise in light of a recent Federal Court decision, College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia v. Council of Nature Medicine College of Canada, that considered some 39 trademark applications and registrations containing abbreviations, acronyms and initials and allegedly confusing with certain professional designations. Read more

Books Titles Unregistrable as Trademarks in Canada

In a decision that could significantly impact rights-holders in the media and entertainment industries, the Federal Court has suggested that book titles are, prima facie, not properly registrable as trademarks in Canada.

In Drolet v. Stiftung Gralsbotchaft (2009 FC 17) the court was tasked with considering a range of copyright and trademark issues.  The litigants were all involved in the Grail Message movement—a religious movement centred around a series of writings prepared in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. The plaintiff sought to expunge the defendant’s Canadian trademark registrations pertaining to the title of a book central to the movement for reasons relating to descriptiveness.

First applying the conventional analysis proscribed under s. 12(1)(b) of the Trade-marks Act (the “Act”) to determine if the mark was “clearly descriptive”, the court concluded the mark did not meet this test, as the title did not convey to a consumer a clear indication of the book’s contents or subject matter.  However, writing for the court Mr. Justice de Montigny went on to assert: Read more

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

GLAMOUR’s Appeal Denied

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. with respect to the Federal Court’s earlier finding in Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. v. Farelyco Marketing Inc.  As readers of this blog may recall from our earlier post on this topic, the Federal Court had found no likelihood of confusion between the Farleyco mark GHOULISH GLAMOUR for Halloween cosmetics and eyelash accessories and the Advance mark GLAMOUR used in association with magazines and related products and services.

The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the finding of the lower court judge that there was “no factual foundation for the proposition that the appellant has expanded the scope of its GLAMOUR mark by having licensed this mark to third parties”, since the third parties were merely using Advance’s GLAMOUR magazine and website to advertise their own products.

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.

Non-Use of a Trademark – Evidence of Special Circumstances Required

Jose Cuervo S.A. de C.V. v. Bacardi & Company Ltd. and the Registrar of Trade-marks was the second time that Bacardi had sought summary expungement, pursuant to section 45 of the Trade-marks Act, of the trade-mark CASTILLO for use in association with rum. This time, the Federal Court Trial Division agreed with the Registrar and expunged the mark for non-use. At issue before the Federal Court was the standard of review and whether special circumstances justified the non-use.

In the course of the earlier expungement action, the Appellant’s predecessor in title to the trademark had, on appeal, produced evidence of a sale of 41 cases of CASTILLO rum on November 21, 1994 to the Ontario Liquor Control Board. Thus, in Quarry Corp. v. Bacardi & Co (1996) 124 F.T.R. 264, the Court concluded the transaction was in the normal course of trade and set aside the Registrar’s decision to expunge. On further appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Trial Division’s decision, but commented that a “single sale divorced from all context” would not normally be sufficient use. In other words, a single sale contrived to protect a trademark was not sufficient.

On October 26, 2005, at Bacardi’s request, the Registrar again issued a section 45 notice requiring evidence of use within the previous three years. The manager of Jose Cuervo’s legal department provided an affidavit dated June 23, 2006 attaching the invoice of November 21, 1994 evidencing the sale to the Ontario Liquor Control Board and an invoice of November 24, 1999 evidencing 100 cases sold to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission (neither sale being within the 3-year limit). The manager also deposed that the Appellant had undertaken a new marketing strategy in 2002 to incorporate a secondary trademark, COHIBA, into the label (owned by a related company), but the co-branding strategy had triggered a worldwide dispute, including threatened litigation that was not yet resolved.

The Registrar concluded there was no use within the requisite 3-year period and, while threatened litigation might be a reasonable excuse for a short period, six years was not reasonable. Relying on the reasoning in Scott Paper Ltd. v. Smart & Biggar (previously discussed) the Registrar concluded that there were no special circumstances.

On appeal, Jose Cuervo provided an affidavit stating that it had resumed use of CASTILLO on August 4, 2008 and attached an invoice for a consignment to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission. The Court noted that the standard of review should be resonableness. The new evidence was not such that it would have affected the Registrar’s decision (being evidence of use well after the 3-year limit) and therefore the standard of review was not correctness.

The Court affirmed the Registrar’s decision, noting that Jose Cuervo produced no evidence as to why the co-branding could not be suspended, stating that it ws “illogical to suspend the use of a valid Canadian trade-mark because of a threat of impending trade-mark litigation with respect to a secondary trade-mark”. The decision to suspend use of CASTILLO in Canada was voluntary and a trade-mark dispute over a secondary mark did not constitute exceptional circumstances.