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16 July 2007
Like other public authorities under Canada's Trademarks Act, the Canadian Olympic Association has historically enjoyed significant protection for its official marks. Now, in light of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Vancouver, the Canadian Parliament has passed special legislation to expand the scope of protection for Olympic and Paralympic marks and to facilitate enforcement. At the time of writing, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act had received royal assent, but was not yet in force.
The act includes two broad categories of protection. The first, in Section 3, prohibits the adoption or use in connection with a business of a mark that is or is likely to be mistaken for a mark enumerated in the act. It also prohibits the use or adoption of a translation of a protected mark into any language.
Section 3 broadly prohibits any such adoption or use, regardless of whether the mark is used as a trademark or results in a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. Exceptions include prior use and use for reporting or critiquing. Under Section 3, certain marks are protected as long as the act is in force, such as OLYMPICS, the well-known five-ring design, FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER and SPIRIT IN MOTION. Other marks are protected only until the end of 2010, including VANCOUVER GAMES, CANADA'S GAMES and GAMES CITY.
The second broad category of protection, found in Section 4, prohibits directing attention to business, wares or services in a way that is likely to mislead the public into believing that they are approved, authorized or endorsed by one of many Olympic or Paralympic organizations, or that a business association exists with any such organization. Use of expressions such as 'tenth', 'winter', 'games' or 'gold' is relevant to determining whether this prohibition has been breached. The prohibition in Section 4 is in force only during a period prescribed by regulation.
Enforcement provisions in the act include the usual remedies available under Canadian law. However, interim or interlocutory injunctive relief is considerably easier for an organizing committee to obtain, as the usual prerequisite proof of irreparable harm is not required during a period prescribed by regulation.
For further information on this topic please contact Jonas H Gifford at Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh by telephone (+1 604 682 7780) or by fax (+1 604 682 0274) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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