The Olympic Trademark Debate Continues

The Vancouver Sun has followed up yesterday’s article regarding official marks with an article today (Friday, March 30, 2007) regarding the proposed legislation now before the Canadian Parliament. The Sun also includes an editorial referring to the legislation as “overkill”. We previously commented on the basic elements of the legislation.

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Trying to Make Sense of Olympic Trademarks

The front page of the Vancouver Sun today (Thursday, March 29, 2007) features an interesting article on the official marks registered by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Games (“VANOC”) and the Canadian Olympic Committee. The article notes that VANOC has rights to FRIEND as an official mark and could potentially bring legal proceedings if someone attempts to use it in connection with a business.  

According to VANOC, they have no intention of preventing the use of words like “friend” on their own. They are, however, concerned about ambush marketing in the lead up to the 2010 Olympic Games and intend to prevent persons who are not properly licensed from marketing wares and services that suggest a connection with the Games.

It may be up to the courts to determine whether ordinary words like “friend” can be official marks. The Vancouver Sun article references an Alberta case (Canadian Olympic Association v. Hipson) that arose in the lead up to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in which the court questioned the Association’s right to claim “winter” and “1988″ as official marks.

What the Vancouver Sun article does not discuss is the proposed legislation now before Parliament which we discussed in an earlier blog and which, if enacted, will extend the power of VANOC even further.

getafirstlife.com Gets a Legal Nod

We previously reported on the Canadian law regarding parodies of trademarks. Parodies of websites and domain names can be a more complex issue but it seems that some targets actually have a sense of humour.

Recently the website getafirstlife.com, created by Vancouver based blogger Darren Barefoot and parodying the website of the increasingly popular “metaverse” of secondlife.com created by San Franciso based Linden Lab, has been given the go ahead from Linden Lab’s lawyers. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents with its own economy and a currency referred to as Linden Dollars (L$), prompting residents to question the legal status of their virtual currency in the real world.

Getafirstlife.com imitates the look of the website for Second Life’s virtual world and uses a logo that’s a modified version of Second Life’s logo. A link on the getafirstlife.com website invited cease-and-desist letters, the type lawyers often send threatening legal action against website parodists. In response, Linden Lab’s lawyers sent a humorous “permit and proceed” letter claiming “Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody. Linden Lab is well-known for having strict hiring standards, including a requirement for having a sense of humour, from which our lawyers receive no exception.” The letter also grants Barefoot a “nonexclusive, nontransferable, nonsublicenseable, revocable, limited license” to use the modified logo on T-shirts he sells.

Barefoot acknowledged that the “permit and proceed” letter was “of enormous credit to the company”. Second Life have registered 3 million new account holders in the last four months.

About the Blog

The authors of the Canadian Trademark Blog are all members of the Canadian law firm Clark Wilson LLP, based in Vancouver, Canada. Each author's practice focuses–either in whole or in substantial part–on Canadian intellectual property law. Together, they manage the trade-mark portfolios of local, national and international brand owners in nearly all industries and markets.

The Authors