Entities which constitute "public authorities" under
the Canadian Trade-marks Act("Act") can obtain
protection for their trade-marks under Section 9(1)(n)(iii) of the
Act, in addition to regular trade-mark protection.
The Act does not define what connotes status as a "public
authority" but an understanding of who may qualify as such has
developed over time before the Federal Court of Canada.
Currently, a public authority must be Canadian and subject to
significant control by a level of Canadian government, with
activities that benefit the public.
A body will not be recognized as a public authority by the Canadian
Trade-marks Office merely because it is a private or public
foundation, registered charity, non-governmental organization, a
not-for-profit agency or holds some other tax-exempt,
non-commercial or volunteer status.
A recent decision of the Federal Court, Trial Division in TCC
Holdings Inc. v. Families as Support Teams Society led to the
quashing of an official mark, F A S T, issued under Section 9 in
1996 after the party holding the mark was found not subject to
sufficient government control both in the present and at the time
its Section 9 mark was issued.
Families as Support Teams Society ("Families")
was a Canadian registered charity at the time the F A S T mark was
declared, but evidence before the Court did not demonstrate that
Families was under significant government control in 1996, or in
the present as it came before the Court. Further, its status
as a charity was revoked in 2006 and Families was dissolved in
2007. Accordingly, the Court quashed the F A S T Section 9
The Families decision is of particular interest because of how it
arose. TCC Holdings Inc. ("TCC") had applied
to register FAST as a regular trade-mark and its application was
blocked by the F A S T official mark. TCC made six attempts
to obtain consent to use and registration of FAST from Families,
but received no response, which caused Families to bring an
application for judicial review of the F A S T official mark.
Families had received Canadian federal government funding which
required acknowledgement of the source of the funds in promotional
materials, as well as a requirement that workshop attendance
records and a report of activities carried out under the funding be
submitted to the funding agency. Further, there was evidence
of correspondence concerning a possible contractual relationship
with another Canadian federal government agency. There was no
evidence that such a contract arose and the Court found that the
evidence overall did not demonstrate significant control of
Families by any level of government.
The Families decision holds lessons for holders of regular
trade-mark and official marks:
A party seeking registration of a regular Canadian trade-mark
that finds its application blocked by an official mark has the
opportunity to argue for co-existence with the official mark before
the Canadian Trade-marks Office if there is sufficient difference
between the marks that they would not be mistaken for each
An applicant may also or alternatively seek consent to use and
registration of their mark, from the holder of the official
An official mark registration can block not only registration
of a trade-mark but the actual use of the trade-mark in Canada,
unless that use predates the publication of the Section 9 mark
and so merely abandoning a trade-mark application and initiating
use of the mark in the Canadian marketplace without consent is not
Should arguing for co-existence or attempting to obtain consent
to use and registration prove fruitless, the Families decision
demonstrates that an applicant and its legal counsel can explore
potential weaknesses in the official mark declaration, including
whether there is or was significant government control of the
holder of the official mark.
Holders of official marks should note that their status as
public authorities, if challenged, may be addressed not only in the
immediate term but as it was at the time the official mark was
declared. Accordingly, care should be taken to maintain
documentation demonstrating significant and ongoing control by a
level of Canadian government from the time of issuance of the
official mark and going forward.
The Federal Court dismissed a motion by Apotex seeking particulars from Allergan's pleading relating to the prior art, inventive concept, promised utility and sound prediction of utility of the patents at issue.
Last year we saw the Canadian Courts release trademark decisions that granted a rare interlocutory injunction, issued jailed sentences for failure to comply with injunctive relief, grappled with trademark and internet issues...
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