Teresa Scassa - Blog

Monday, 31 March 2014 08:59

Major Changes to Canadian Trademark Law Introduced in Budget Implementation Bill

Written by  Teresa Scassa
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The federal government’s recently introduced Budget Implementation Bill (Bill C-31) is accompanied once again by hundreds of pages of unrelated amendments to various federal laws. Almost lost among all of this legislative noise are 36 pages of amendments to the Trade-marks Act (which, once these amendments are passed and not a moment too soon, will be renamed the Trademarks Act). These amendments are all ones considered to be necessary in order for Canada to implement the Madrid Protocol and the Singapore Treaty – two of the international treaties tabled in Parliament earlier this year.

One could argue that since the amendments do not go further than the implementation of these treaties, then there is little harm in pushing them through in the rather bloated charade of democracy that budget implementation bills have become. Unfortunately, what Canadians are really being denied is an opportunity to hear debate on whether the implementation of these treaties is actually in the country’s best interests. Although there are arguments to support the implementation of treaties that harmonize certain procedures around the registration of trademarks and that permit Canadian companies to take advantage of a simplified international filing procedure where trademark registration is sought in multiple jurisdictions, there are also arguments for the status quo. The changes to Canada’s trademark system – particularly the abandonment of a requirement that a trademark be used before it is registered – could very well lead to a flood of trademark registrations in Canada by foreign companies that will clutter the register with unused trademarks and that will ultimately make it more difficult for Canadian companies to adopt, use and register the marks of their choice.

The amendments to the Trade-marks Act introduced in Bill C-31are likely to leapfrog over the amendments proposed in Bill C-8, which has been making its sluggish way through the more usual democratic channels (you know – where there is debate on the merits of the amendments, committee hearings, and sometimes even changes made to improve the bill). In fact, a good part of the trademark-related content in the Budget Implementation Bill consists of sorting out when different provisions will come into effect relative to C-8, particularly where they depend upon certain changes being implemented by C-8. This promises a confusing tangle of changes to the law; trademark lawyers will have to be consoled by the fact that they bill by the hour.

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