Invoices Evidencing Use and Abandoning Use of Trademarks

A decision from the Federal Court of Appeal, Iwasaki Electric Co. Ltd. v. Hortilux Schreder B.V, provides some useful commentary regarding invoices as evidence of trademark use and regarding the issue of abandonment. 

Hortilux opposed Iwasaki’s application to register HORTILUX in association with electric lamps.  The Opposition Board accepted October 1997 as Iwasaki’s date of first use and concluded that the invoices submitted by Hortilux did not establish use prior to October 1997, although no reasons were provided byt the Board on this particular issue.  No additional evidence on this point was provided on appeal, but the Federal Court judge, applying a standard of reasonableness, reviewed the case law and concluded that Hortilux did have use prior to October 1997.  The Court of Appeal concluded there was no reason to interfere with the judge’s decision. 

The Court of Appeal quoted the judge’s earlier decision that “if a trademark is placed at the top of the invoice, with no use in the body of the invoice, the use will not generally be in association with the invoiced wares…”, but agreed that there were exceptions to this general rule, noting the judge’s reasons for drawing an exception in this case: the trademark was prominent on the invoice, appearing in large font and with design elements; it was clear that HORTILUX was not simply the trade name, particularly when Hortilux B.V. appeared separately; the recipient was the distributor and would therefore have understood that HORTILUX referenced the source of the reflectors; the reflectors were the only goods referenced in the invoices and no other trademark appeared on the invoices.

Having found use prior to October 1997, the Federal Court judge also had to consider whether the mark had been abandoned by Hortilux at the time Iwasaki’s application was advertised (a point that the Board Member did not need to address).  The Court of Appeal agreed that when applying the test in section 16(5) of the Trade-marks Act – whether at the time an application is advertised, a confusing trademark has been “abandoned” – there must be evidence of an intention to abandon. If the failure to use has continued for a long period of time, this may amount to evidence of an intention to abandon absent evidence to the contrary.  However, in this case there was affidavit evidence stating that Hortilux did not intend to abandon the mark.  This evidence did not amount to evidence of use but that was not necessary.  Thus, the judge had made no overiding error and Hortilux succeeded on its appeal.

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Happy new year.

Bodum Gets French Pressed by Federal Court In Trademark Dispute

Canada’s Federal Court has recently handed Bodum USA, Inc. (Bodum) another loss in its ongoing fight to enforce its trademark and other intellectual property rights in this country.  In the most recent decision, the Court has found that the Canadian Registration for the trademark FRENCH PRESS is invalid and unenforceable.  This Registration is owned by Pi Design AG (Pi), a related entity to Bodum and the licensor of the mark to Bodum in Canada and covers wares described as non-electric coffee makers.

As a result,  Bodum’s infringement claims against Meyer Housewares Canada Inc. (Meyer) over its use of the FRENCH PRESS mark have been dismissed.  Even worse for Bodum, the Registration for FRENCH PRESS has been ordered expunged on the grounds that it should never have been issued in the first place and even if it was properly registered, that Registration is now invalid on the basis that the mark is descriptive and not distinctive of Bodum as the sole source of the goods that this mark is registered in association with.

When assessing the evidence presented by the parties, the Court found that the term “French Press” was already in widespread use in North America as a generic term describing a popular type of coffee making device in 1995, which Pi was aware of when it sought to register the mark in Canada and thereby claim exclusive rights to the mark.  The Registration for this mark issued in 1997.

The Court also found that the use of the term “French press” by Meyer was use in a descriptive sense, to identify the product as a particular type of coffee maker that Meyer was selling, rather than use of that term as a trade-mark.  In addition, the Court noted that Bodum had not, until this particular dispute with Meyer, exercised the rights that it claimed to have in the FRENCH PRESS mark against various other parties who have used the mark in Canada at various times since the early 1990′s.  Also going against Bodum was the fact that it had not put forward evidence of any actual confusion in the marketplace between consumers of Bodum’s FRENCH PRESS coffee makers and the French press coffee makers sold by Meyer.

This decision of the Federal Court follows closely on another loss that Bodum suffered in that Court, when it not only failed to enforce its Industrial Design Registration for a double walled glass design, but saw that Registration expunged for invalidity as well.