Maintained by Clark Wilson LLP

Creating an Effective Brand

Vitamin.com posted an interesting article by Mike McDerment of freshbooks.com on how to create an effective brand.

One thing the article didn’t deal with, however, was the role of trademark due diligence in the brand creation process. Before committing to any new brand, appropriate clearance searches should be conducted. The best new brand in the world may not be of much use if it’s infringing on the rights of a competitor – at the very least, the cost of launching the brand could go up significantly – Apple’s launch of its iPhone brand is a classic example. Apple is fortunate enough to have the legal budget to fight those battles. Many businesses don’t.

iPhone Trademark Dispute Goes Canadian

In an update to our January 11, 2007 posting on Apple Computer Inc.’s troubles with it’s proposed iPhone trademark in the U.S. and Canada, Toronto based Comwave Telecom Inc. is continuing with it’s opposition to Apple’s application to register the iPhone mark in Canada on a proposed use basis. Even though Comwave filed its application to register the mark in Canada after Apple did, Comwave claims to have used its iPhone mark in Canada since 2000 in association with local and long distance telephone services and VoIP telephone services. Under Canadian trademark law, it appears to have the upper hand if it can prove its prior use claims.  

Comwave is also threatening to go after Cisco for promoting its iPhone products in Canada. However, if Cisco’s claims are true that it has no sales of those products in Canada at this time, Comwave’s threats appear to be more of a shot over the bow.

Glen Breton vs. Scotch Whisky – Round 1

In a follow up to our posting of December 20, 2006, the Trade-marks Opposition Board has now sided with the Nova Scotia distiller of GLEN BRETON whisky.  In the Opposition Board’s view, members of the public who purchase GLEN BRETON whisky will not be confused into thinking that they are buying Scotch Whisky.  The Scotch Whisky Association has indicated that it will appeal the decision to the Federal Court, so stay tuned for Round 2.

More Olympic Trade-mark Issues

Protecting the official trademarks of the Olympic Games is proving to be an ongoing challenge for the organizers of the Beijing 2008 Games, as well as the Vancouver 2010 Games. We reported some time ago regarding possible new Canadian legislation. Beijing organizers are now threatening legal action against pranksters that are using the Internet to poke fun at several of the official marks of the Beijing Games.

The website of the Vancouver Organizing Committee includes a 36-page list setting out the official marks of the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the Canadian Olympic Committee, including the Beijing Games marks that are currently being targeted. A portfolio of that size will likely generate some interesting new developments in trademark law as we draw closer to the 2010 Games.

iPhone Gets Its First Busy Signal

It didn’t take long for Cisco Systems to take a run at Apple, Inc.’s newly unveiled iPhone. Cisco owns a U.S. Trademark Registration for IPHONE in association with “computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks”. Cisco has filed a lawsuit against Apple in the U.S. alleging trademark infringement among other things. Cisco alleges that up to the night before Apple’s introduction of the iPhone on Tuesday of this week at Macworld Expo, Apple and Cisco were negotiating the terms of an agreement that would have permitted Apple to use the mark.

There appear to be other entities using the iPhone mark for VoIP services, some of which have also filed applications to register the mark in association with such services. Cisco, in its lawsuit, alleges that Apple is applying to register the iPhone mark in the U.S. via a related or alter ego company called Ocean Telecom Services LLC. of 2004 on a proposed use basis.

Apple filed an application to register the mark iPhone in Canada in October of 2004 on a proposed use basis. That application is currently being opposed by Comwave Telecom Inc. Comwave  filed its own application for the mark iPhone in Canada, claiming use of that mark in Canada since June of 2004 for use in association with VoIP services.

December Case Law

There were three cases out of the Federal Court in December 2006 that are of interest.

In Omega Engineering, Inc. v. Omega SA, 2006 FC 1472, the Applicant was the owner of the trade-mark OMEGA and three related marks for use in association with scientific and industrial clocks and timers, amongst other measuring instruments used in science and industry. The Respondent was the owner of the mark OMEGA & Design for use in association with, among other things, “appareils techniques et scientifiques pour l’électricité, l’optique, la télégraphie, le cinéma, la radio, la téléphonie, la télégraphie, nommément: la cellules photo-électriques, portails à contact, compteurs enregistreurs sur bande de papier, pistolets de start à contacts électriques” (roughly translated as “scientific and technical instruments for electricity, optics, the cinema, radio, telegraph and telephone, namely photocells, contact points, recording meters on paper tape, starting guns with electrical contacts”). The Applicant sought to have the registration for OMEGA & Design amended to change the general description to another general classification or, alternatively, have the mark removed from the Register on the basis that it had been abandoned.  Interestingly, the Respondent had registered its mark in 1895 and had commenced separate opposition proceedings as against the Applicant. The Applicant had initially brought a section 45 proceeding (“non-use”) seeking to expunge the registration for OMEGA & Design. That application proceeded to the Federal Court of Appeal where the Court found that the mark could not to be expunged for non-use and that the trial judge could not amend the statement of wares on a section 45 proceeding.

The Applicant’s further application also failed. The Court held that there was evidence that the Respondent’s wares fell within the general classification and it was not open to the Court on a section 57 proceeding to substitute another general description of the wares. The latter could only be achieved in the course of opposition proceedings. The Court also concluded that the Respondent’s mark had not been abandoned and that there was use of OMEGA & Design with the specific wares that followed the general classification.

In International Taekwon-Do Federation et al. v. Choi et al., the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) and its Canadian affiliate, the Canadian Taekwon-Do Federation International (CTFI), brought a section 57 (expungement) application arguing that the trade-marks registered by the Respondents were invalid (TAE KWON-DO & Design, along with 3 others). The Respondents were a former officer of the ITF and a joint venture between him and his father, the original founder of the ITF. The Court agreed that the marks were invalid, noting that the Respondents were not entitled to register the trade-marks because they would be confusing with marks that had been previously used by the Applicants. Also, any use that the Respondents might have made of the marks would have been use on behalf of the Applicants given that the individual Respondent and his father were officers of the ITF and had a fiduciary duty towards it. Moreover, the marks could not be said to be distinctive of the Respondents’ wares or services given the Applicants’ prior use of the same marks. The Court also noted that an importer or agent has no right to register a trade-mark owned by a foreign principal under his own name and for his own benefit. In this regard, the Court relied on Citrus Growers Assn. Ltd. v. William D. Branson Ltd. (1990), 36 C.P.R. (3d) 434.

In Jagotec AG v. Riches, McKenzie & Herbert LLP, the Applicant successfully appealed a decision of the Registrar of Trade-marks to expunge its mark under section 45 for non-use. On the Appeal, the Applicant was entitled to file additional evidence that was not before the Registrar of Trade-marks. Although the evidence was from the original owner of the mark and not the Applicant itself, there was evidence that in the three years prior to the section 45 proceeding being commenced, the trade-mark was used through the sale of the wares in Canada in containers or packages bearing the words VISIBLE YOUTH.