There were three recent trademark decisions from the Canadian courts that readers may find of interest:

Expungement Allowed – In Candrug Health Solutions Inc. v. Thorkelson, Candrug and Pharmawest commenced identical applications and sought expungement of the respondent’s trade-marks in Federal Court. The proceedings were consolidated and Candrug discontinued its application. Therefore, Pharmawest was the sole applicant.

The respondent had applied and been issued registration in May 2003 for the trade-marks CANADA DRUGS and CANADADRUGS.COM. The respondent had disclaimed the exclusive right to use the words “Canada” and “Drugs” apart from the trade-marks. The Federal Court agreed with the applicant and expunged the trade-marks CANADA DRUGS and CANADADRUGS.COM on the basis that they were both clearly descriptive and deceptively misdescriptive under section 12(1)(b) of the Act. The respondent was unable to discharge his onus under section 12(2) to show the marks had acquired distinctiveness as of the date the application was filed. Therefore, the marks were not registrable and were ordered expunged.

Damages Reduced on Appeal – In 2703203 Manitoba Inc. v. Parks, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal allowed an appeal in part and reduced the quantum of damages for copyright infringement, passing-off and interference with contractual relations awarded by the trial judge. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that the appellants infringed the respondent’s copyright in the publication, Coffee News, by producing and distributing the publication, Flying Cow, in the form they did.

Witnesses at trial testified that the first several issues of the Flying Cow were published by the same printer as Coffee News and were identical in every respect including design, format, and quality and colour of the paper. Only the editorial content and the mast-head were different. The Court of Appeal also paid considerable deference to the trial judge’s advantage of seeing and hearing the witnesses and upheld the trial judge’s conclusion that the respondent was entitled to damages from the appellants for passing-off.

Referring specifically to the testimony of several witnesses, the trial judge concluded that the appellants had devised a strategy of lies and deceit in producing Flying Cow as practically identical to Coffee News, with the objective being to cause confusion so that advertisers, distributors and readers may be persuaded that the two publications were sister editions rather than competitors.

The Court of Appeal did, however, take issue with the trial judge’s calculation of damages as there was limited explanation or justification of how the amounts were arrived at. The Court of Appeal reviewed each amount and reduced the trial judge’s order of general damages from $139,000 to $70,500 and punitive damages from $100,000 to $40,000.

Challenging Official Marks – In See You In? Canadian Athletes Fund Corporation v. Canadian Olympic Committee the Applicant sought judicial review of the Registrar’s decision to grant the COC two official marks, SEE YOU IN BEIJING and SEE YOU IN VANCOUVER. The Applicant was incorporated in 1997 to raise money for Canadian athletes and had used marks such as SEE YOU IN ATHENS in the past and had applied to register the two marks at issue. The Federal Court agreed with the Registrar that the COC was a public authority since there was a significant degree of public control over it’s ongoing activities and the organization existed for the public benefit.

However, the Federal Court also concluded that a mere statement by the public authority that it had adopted and used a mark was not sufficient to prove that such adoption and use had actually occurred. A negative inference could be drawn from a failure to provide details regarding alleged adoption and use. Moreover, any such evidence must show an element of public display. Since the COC had not established adoption and use at the relevant time, the Registrar’s decision to publish notice of the adoption and use by COC of the marks as official marks was quashed. We understand that the COC is considering an appeal of this decision.

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