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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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 5:28am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:47am

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

      If his goal was to keep people from "tarnish" the name, why not after getting a trademark on it, then in turn hand it freely over to the community at that point?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 3:36pm

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

        Because it's a lie. He only started claiming it was to prevent tarnishing the community's rep after they came after him for trying to shake down said community.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 6:59am

    Maybe the rest of the county can come together and stop doing any business with him until he agrees to invalidate his trademark. I don't think being a trademark troll is a protected class.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:03am

    Pretty sure Halliburton is already a big name, I wonder if they're aware of this trademark filing. Seems like an idiot in a hurry could confuse Haliburton with Halliburton.

    This presents an interesting moral dilemma for myself. Do a support the evil multinational corp or the slimy troll?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:24am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:38am

    Given the seeming lax nature of the Canadian trademark office, perhaps the Haliburton county council can trademark the phrase "Michael Stinson". Then, surely an equitable trade can be had.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:46am

    It's not just trademarks. Geographic areas are also protected in the .ca domain name registry. Only the city, municipality or province with that name may register it.

    But apparently it wasn't always this way. Haliburton.ca was registered back in 2000 and is owned by a private company, but apparently not this guy. The domain is currently parked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Trails (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 7:52am

    Shame

    Haliburton's actually quite nice, very good example of Canadian Shield natural beauty (lakes, granite, forests, hills), love camping in that region. It's a shame this guy is being such a dick, and our federal gov't is so useless. "Oops, we fucked up and empowered an asshole. You guys fix it."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 10:50am

      Re: Shame

      "Oops, we fucked up and empowered an asshole. You guys fix it."

      Funny, the US is currently dealing with a similar situation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 3 Aug 2017 @ 8:05am

    I think the county should change it's name. That would resolve all of this.

    I'd call it "Michael Stinson is an asshat County".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glen, 3 Aug 2017 @ 8:25am

    Wouldn't it be a great "FU" if they just changed the county name and all the business leaders followed suite?

    Damn near in impossible but would be cool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vic, 3 Aug 2017 @ 8:54am

    <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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 8:56am

    Take the guy off into the woods and deal with him. Canada is a great place for a person to never be seen again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 9:19am

      Re:

      Canada is a great place for a person to never be seen again.

      Not really. We had a guy who was arrested for shoplifting, thinking he was invisible. Naturally, drugs were involved. Months later he was also charged with "Failure to appear."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 9:06am

    Stinson says he never intended to deceive or harm anyone

    Sadly according to increasing numbers of people, greed is an honorable trait to have and "doesn't harm anyone" as long as you're sticking that money into your own pocket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2017 @ 9:51am

    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.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 11:19am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 10:15am

    Dear Mr. Stinson

    Dear Mr. Stinson,

    Legal action is not your only option.

    In the next TechDirt article up, the guy uses a DDOS attack, saying it was his only option.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thad, 3 Aug 2017 @ 10:23am

    "Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development" -- oh, I get it, it's ironic, like all the ministries in 1984.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wyrm, 3 Aug 2017 @ 10:36am

    Wait, isn't the trademark already invalid due to the fact that Stinson doesn't actually use it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 3 Aug 2017 @ 2:19pm

    Such an important and well meaning person needs full time escort by law enforcement to ensure that no laws are violated in his presence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Deuteronomy of Gath, 4 Aug 2017 @ 5:10am

    "Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of HALIBURTON was good enough to trademark.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 4 Aug 2017 @ 7:47am

    The offices are in Quebec.
    They are lifetime beurocrats and their knowledge of anything outside is limited and their rabid disdain for nonfrench types is legendary.... think french canadian version of rednecks living off federal dollars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 5 Aug 2017 @ 9:07am

    Geographic Name Trademarks

    Things could be worse. There is a lot of grifters out in California who trademarked the name of Hollywood, a city between Miami and Palm Beach, and now attempt to prevent people from using that name to denote origins of goods and services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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