Canadian Man Somehow Gets Trademark On His Own County's Name, Govt. Says Legal Action Is The Only Remedy

from the you-pay-for-our-mistakes dept

It’s stunning how often trademarks that never should have been granted get granted — leading to all sorts of bad outcomes. One area that sees far too many bad trademarks involves trademarking geographic areas, with the holder of the mark often then trying to lock out local businesses from using the name of the locations in which they reside. If ever there were a trademark type that everyone ought to agree should be rejected, it’s one based purely on geography.

Entirely too many of these slip through. For example, one Canadian man managed to get a trademark on the name of the county in which he resides, with the stated aim not of using it in commerce, but rather protecting that name’s reputation.

Michael Stinson caused a stir among government officials in Haliburton County last week when they learned he had successfully trademarked the name Haliburton. Stinson says he never intended to deceive or harm anyone, and explains that he trademarked the name so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name of the community.

Now, the Canadian government’s site is pretty clear in stating that this sort of geographic trademark is flatly not allowed, but somehow Stinson got it through anyway. Way to go, Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. As for Stinson, his claim for why he applied for the trademark is neither the purpose of trademarks generally nor is it apparently the actual reason why he got this specific trademark.

Haliburton County’s chief administrative officer, Mike Rutter, says he’s not sure how the trademark could have been allowed. Rutter says he first became aware of the issue when the county’s chamber of commerce started receiving complaints.

“We received a call from our local chamber of commerce that Mr. Stinson was attending businesses and advising people that they would owe him money if they were using the name Haliburton,” Rutter says.

If true, this would seem to me that Stinson is a bully, attempting to extort local businesses with a trademark that never should have been approved by the Canadian government. This is the damage that can be done by trademark offices not following their own damned rules and not adhering to the purpose of trademark laws to begin with. Stinson appears to be rather slimy, but it’s worth focusing on the fact that he couldn’t be doing any of this is had the Canadian trademark office bothered to do its damned job.

With that in mind, you’re probably thinking that the Ministry would simply recognize its mistake, invalidate the trademark, and everyone except Stinson can go on their merry way. Noooooope.

Haliburton Coun. Murray Fearrey says he contacted the federal department that handles trademark issues and was told the only option to resolve the matter would be for the county to take legal action.

“I’m upset that we would even have to even think about spending taxpayer dollars on something that should never have happened, as a result of some civil servant making a mistake,” says Fearrey. “I can’t believe there isn’t a political process (instead), because if you pass legislation there’s always a way to amend it or rescind it.”

So a federal department funded by taxpayers shits the bed in doing its job and then informs a local government that more tax money must be wasted to fix it? That’s plainly revolting. Nearly as revolting as Stinson’s goals for turning the county and his trademark into a money-making machine.

Stinson says, however, that while he’s approached some local businesses about his trademark, he hasn’t received any fees so far. He says he hopes to work with local officials on the matter and wants to make Haliburton “a big brand name with the co-operation of the county.”

“I’m optimistic that we can all meet and discuss these issues at hand in a timely matter, whether it’s the county of Haliburton, our MP, and our chamber of commerce,” he says.

Fortunately, county officials have stated that they are interested in only one outcome from this whole fiasco: the invalidation of Stinson’s trademark entirely. Nobody should be able to hold businesses hostage with a trademark like this and heads ought to be rolling in the Canadian trademark offices for any of this happening to begin with.

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Comments on “Canadian Man Somehow Gets Trademark On His Own County's Name, Govt. Says Legal Action Is The Only Remedy”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"You can't destroy my community's reputation, that's MY job!"

Stinson says he never intended to deceive or harm anyone, and explains that he trademarked the name so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name of the community.

If(and I don’t believe for a second it is) this was actually his goal he seems to be going about it in a rather… novel way, namely by making it so that anytime someone thinks of the name they’ll remember his attempted extortion using a trademark he never should have been granted. Destroying the reputation ahead of time so no-one else need bother as it were.

And of course the cherry on top, and what allowed him to engage in his little extortion scheme was the trademark office screwing up in truly amazing fashion, and then rather than admitting it doubling down and insisting that the only way the county could get the rights to it’s own name back was by going legal.

Scum and grossly incompetent government workers(at best)… none of those responsible for this mess come out looking anything but terrible.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I didn’t even realize they were spelled differently until I read this.

I was wondering the same thing about this being a violation of their trademark when I read this story.

I imagine people of the Haliburton town could use the name just fine without issue (similar to how people who live in Hersey PA can use the name Hersey), but the trademark could be an issue.

Vic says:

<i>Haliburton Coun. Murray Fearrey says he contacted the federal department that handles trademark issues and was told the only option to resolve the matter would be for the county to take legal action.</i>
OK, so the logical solution would be to file a lawsuit against the federal government for granting that trademark in the first place. Requiring all sorts of compensation of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Strange, curious powerful properties of Canadian trademarks


There are strange things done in the midnight sun…


Way up in the far north, where the Eskimaux mingle with Frenchmen, and the English try to make proper sense of it all—in Canada, there’s a strange, curious powerful crittur they call the ‘trademark’.

Now the ‘trademark’ is not a beast one can ignore.

No, not safely.

Oh, you might imagine the Canadian ‘trademark’ as no more than a larger, fiercer, northern cousin of some familiar species found in the warmer lands of lower latitude. But that would make sore mistake.

When you first hear the low, snarling growl of a Canadian ‘trademark’ then —Make way!— ground gonna tremble and shake and that wolverine rumble be upon you with the black roar of a 100-car coal train.

Not ignorable.



( Poetry line by Robert W. Service, published 1907.)

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Strange, curious powerful properties of Canadian trademarks

Canadian trademark law used to be more nuts.

In the late ’80s I was working for a local computer store, Microbyte. (It no longer exists, but at the time had been around for 15 years.) One day we get legal demand from a Microbyte in Ontario, saying "We’ve just registered the Microbyte trademark Canada-wide. You must stop using it."

We wrote back, "We own the Microbyte trademark in Manitoba. Your so-called "Canada-wide" trademark is only good for Ontario, Quebec and a couple other provinces." We never heard back from them.

At some point all the provincial systems were merged. Which didn’t fix existing problems. Furniture store The Brick (new federal trademark) moved into Manitoba and demanded that furniture store Brick’s Fine Furniture (old Manitoba trademark) stop using their family name. Brick’s Fine Furniture won, after five years of hell and $180,000 in legal bills.

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