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October Case Law: Successful Appeals

There were five Canadian trade-mark cases of note in October. Interestingly, in four of them the Federal Court allowed appeals from the Opposition Board and in three of those cases the appeal was allowed on the basis of new evidence allowed to be filed at the appeal stage.

City Optical Holdings Inc. v. The United States Shoe Corporation was an appeal from a decision of the Opposition Board which refused registration of THE INVINCIBLES for use in association with eyeglass lenses and related wares on the basis that it was confusing with the opponent’s mark, INVISIBLES for  ophthalmic (sic) lenses. The Applicant filed further evidence on appeal, as it was entitled to do. The Opponent chose not to contest the appeal. The Court allowed the appeal on the basis of the further evidence since there was no evidence of actual confusion and different channels of trade.

The appeal from the Registrar in Minolta-QMS, Inc. v. Tsai was also allowed, again on the basis of new evidence filed on appeal. Minolta’s opposition to the registration of MAGICOLOR in association with electrical wire, namely shielded, unshielded and insulated electric wire, cable and cord was dismissed by the Opposition Board. Minolta had not filed evidence in chief and the Board ruled that much of the evidence filed in reply by Minolta was not proper reply evidence. On the basis of the new evidence filed on appeal, it was clear that as of the date Minolta filed its opposition the MAGICOLOR mark was not distinctive, Minolta having had previous use.

In Fairweather Ltd. v. Registrar of Trade-marks, the Court, also on the basis of new evidence allowed on appeal, set aside the Registrar’s decision under section 45 expunging Fairweather Ltd.’s mark TARGET APPAREL. Fairweather had acquired the mark following the receivership of another company and the Opposition Board was not satisfied that the mark had been used or that there was a serious intention to use the mark. The new evidence on appeal demonstrated that Fairweather had taken concrete steps, including the development of artwork by employees of a related company. There were also actual sales, although these were subsequent to the issuance of the section 45 Notice.

In Smart & Biggar v. Jarawan the Court allowed the appeal from the Opposition Board’s decision that the Registrant of the mark, AL-RIFAI ROASTERY (MAHMASAT) had demonstrated use in the last three years in accordance with section 45 of the Trade-marks Act. The Court noted that the standard of review was one of reasonableness.  Given the vague and imprecise Affidavit filed by the Registrant, it was not reasonable for the Hearing Officer to have concluded there was use.

Petrillo v. Allmax Nutrition Inc. was a motion for summary judgement. The Court concluded that no genuine issue for trial existed against the personal defendant Mr. Kichuk for the alleged infringement of the ISO-FLEX trade-mark. The Court examined the law regarding the personal liability of directors and officers and the principles governing summary judgement, concluding there was no evidence to support the assertions in the Statement of Claim that Mr. Kichuk incorporated his companies or pursued a course of conduct through the companies intended to infringe the Plaintiff’s trade-mark.

900,000th Mark Registered Under International Trademark System

A recent press release from WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) heralds the 900,000th registration under the International Trademark System, commonly known as the Madrid Protocol or system.

The Madrid system allows an applicant from a signatory country to potentially obtain protection for its mark in up to 77 member countries and the European Union by filing one application, in one language (English, French or Spanish), with one set of fees, in one currency (Swiss Francs). An International Registration obtained through the Madrid system can be maintained and renewed through a single procedure at WIPO.

The system is designed to provide a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark owners to secure protection for their marks in multiple member countries through the filing of one application. While there are debates about how well the Madrid system attains that goal, it certainly gives applicants from member countries another powerful option for international trade-mark protection strategies.

Unfortunately for many Canadian trademark owners (namely those without a presence in a Madrid protocol signatory country), this option is not available to them because Canada, alone among most developed (and many developing) countries is not a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, nor is it likely to be for at least several years. The recent accession of both the U.S. and the EU to the Madrid system has awoken the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) to the need for Canada to seriously consider joining, but the process is moving very slowly. In 2002, CIPO published an analysis of the issues that need to be addressed in order for Canada to acede to the Madrid Protocol and in 2005 CIPO solicited comments from Trade-mark professionals as to the proposed modernization of Canadian Trade-mark law, including adherence to Madrid. The issue has gained little public attention and given the other priorities of the minority governments in Canada of the past several years, it’s likely to languish for several more years.

Protected Poppies

In Edmonton, the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is concerned about the sale of white poppies with the word “peace” in the middle. The red poppy has come to symbolize Remembrance Day, when Canadians honour their war dead.

The Legion has had its poppy design registered as a trade-mark since 1948. The poppy design is also protected by federal legislation (s. 15 of the the Royal Canadian Legion Act, S.C. 1948, c. 84, as amended by S.C. 1980-81-82-83, c. 179) which provides that the poppy design as depicted is a mark of the “dominion command” and a registered trade-mark under the Trade-marks Act.

Anti-war activists are offering white poppies with the word “Peace” for sale in Edmonton, claiming that such poppies have been sold as a peace symbol since 1933. The Legion is alleging infringement of its trade-mark rights and arguing that the sale of such poppies politicizes the Legion’s symbol of sacrifice.

Olympic Trademark Legislation

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) is seeking legislation from the federal government that will allow it to deal more effectively with persons who misuse Olympic marks. In its annual report released this week, VANOC explains that it is in discussions with Canadian government officials regarding a special legilslation to protect the Olympic brand. The intention is to reduce ambush marketing during the period leading up to the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Such legislation is not new. Italy introduced such legislation prior to the 2006 Turin Winter Games.

September Case Law

There are two trade-mark cases from the Canadian Courts in September 2006 of interest to readers.

In Cafe’ Do Brasil, S.p.A. v. Walong Marketing Inc., the Federal Court agreed with the applicant, an Italian food products company, and expunged a registered trade-mark owned by the respondent. The respondent’s registered trade-mark, KIMBO, was identical to the trade-mark that the applicant had obtained a registration for in Canada in 1990 and had used in Canada since 1992. In 2003, the applicant filed an application to expand the registration of its KIMBO trade-mark, but was informed that the Canadian Trade-mark Office objected to the registration of its KIMBO trade-mark in relation to the additional wares because it was confusing with a KIMBO trade-mark owned by the respondent. The record disclosed that expungement proceedings had been initiated in 1999 which resulted in the expungement of the applicant’s KIMBO trade-mark. However, the applicant had not received actual notice of the expungement proceedings in 1999. The Court held that the application was properly before it since the applicant met the definition of an “interested person”, having not received actual notice of the expungement proceedings. The Court further held that at the time of the first use of KIMBO by the respondent’s predecessor company in 1995, there was a reasonable likelihood of confusion between the two parties’ trade-marks. As a result, the respondent was not entitled to register its trade-mark and it was therefore invalid and was expunged from the Register.

In Community Credit Union Ltd. v. Registrar of Trade-marks, the Federal Court refused to set aside the Registrar of Trade-marks’ refusal to register the trade-mark COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION. With regards to the “clearly descriptive” ground of opposition, the Court held that it was not unreasonable for the Board not to have considered this ground. The Court further stated that if they were wrong in this regard, it was satisfied that the mark was clearly descriptive of the character of the services to be provided by the applicant in association with its use, and that registration of the mark COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION would remove the word “community” from the vocabulary available to others providing credit union services. With regards to distinctiveness, the Registrar had concluded that the mark was inherently non-distinctive because there were numerous credit unions in Canada that used “Community Credit Union” in their trade-marks or trade names. While a mark may become distinctive in a particular geographical area, the court held that there was considerable evidence before them and before the Registrar that the mark was commonly used within the trade in every region and that circumstances pointed to an absence of distinctiveness.