The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench recently had to deal with
a bizarre case in which the defendant obtained a Mastercard from
Bank of Montreal, used it for 15 years, made payments on it for 15
years and then stopped paying it: Bank of Montreal v.
Rogozinsky, 2014 ABQB 771. The defendant was
sued by BMO for the outstanding balance of $27,064 plus
interest. In defence, the defendant argued, amongst other
things, that BMO was estopped from advancing their claim and
counterclaimed against BMO for $6 million for trademark and
Essentially, the defendant was a "freeman-on-the-land"
– she claimed she was not a resident of Alberta (but was
domiciled by birth), did not accept "joinder" between
herself and her name, and (inexplicably) that slavery was
illegal. She also took exception to being called a
"Freeman" and claimed such a title was
How does this relate to copyright? Right before her credit
card was suspended by BMO, the plaintiff sent to BMO a "Common
Law Copyright Notice". It was a "foisted unilateral
agreement" which claimed that if someone used the
defendant's name without her permission she could bill them $1
million. BMO used the defendant's name in its statement
of claim and various court submissions, and thus, had allegedly
breached the defendant's copyright.
The defendant was claiming copyright and trademark in her name,
as well as "her biological and physical properties" and
"absolute control and mastery over the peaceful possession of
[her] body, mind and mental facilities". BMO was
allegedly interfering with the defendant's peace of mind by
suing her for repayment of her debt.
Astonishingly (at least to me), this defendant was not the first
person to come before the Canadian courts and make this
argument. The Court dismissed the copyright and trademark
claims of the defendant, and referred to Meads v.
Meads, 2012 ABQB 571 (an entertaining and
enlightening read on the various characteristics and permutations
The issue in Meads was unpaid spousal and child
support. The defendant father and ex-husband attempted to
defend against paying spousal and child support on the basis of a
myriad of arguments, including that he was not Dennis Meads (his
name) because it was a "corporate identity". The
defendant also claimed copyright/trademark in his own name and
argued that there had been breaches of both.
The Court in Meads noted that the special
property interests provided by copyright and trademark flow from
legislation (the Copyright Act and Trademarks Act).
The Court further noted there is no authority to establish that a
personal name can form a creative work that would be subject to
copyright (and if there was, such copyright would vest in the
authors, presumably the defendant's parents). Similarly,
no trademark in the defendant's name had been registered.
If one day you decide to become a freeman-on-the-land, now you
know that you can't claim copyright or trademark in your own
name. Unless perhaps you've registered it...in which
case, keep an eye out for Apple Inc. v. Apple
Martin (Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's
famously named daughter).
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A recent Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench decision allowed a court-appointed receiver to sell and transfer intellectual property rights free and clear of encumbrances, finding that a license to use improvements of an invention was a contractual interest and not a property interest.
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