Of Trademarks, Towers, and Trolls: How Far Does Trademark Protection Reach?

By: Liz Gray

A fantasy novel set in Toronto is the centre of a trademark controversy.  The cover of James Bow’s new book, The Night Girl, features shadowy fantastical figures running along a rooftop with the iconic CN Tower on their left.  The image of the CN Tower was obtained from a stock photo site under a Creative Commons license.

But, to the surprise of Bow and the book’s publishers, the CN Tower’s owner is alleging that the cover violates their trademark.  According to representatives of Canada Lands Company Ltd. (CLCL), the Crown corporation that manages the CN Tower, every image of the CN Tower is protected as a trademark.  They are asking that the cover be redesigned for subsequent print runs, but Bow and his publishers are pushing back.

A lawyer for Bow is asking CLCL to drop the matter.  Ren Bucholz points out that ‘confusion’ is the basic yardstick for trademark infringement, and that The Night Girl is a fantasy novel “featuring a strong female protagonist who helps trolls and goblins succeed in the human world through her work at an employment agency”, rather than a guidebook or map.  It is unlikely, according to Bucholz, that anyone would see this cover and think that CLCL believes the CN Tower to be overrun with trolls.

The matter is still ongoing, but one thing is clear: stock photo licenses might not always tell the full story.

2019 NBA Champions Toronto Raptors: Trademark Fight Ahead with Monster Energy

By: Edward Wu

Despite the Toronto Raptors’ historic win last night, they may have some trouble ahead with their, now iconic, logo. Monster Energy is suing the Toronto Raptors over the clawed basketball logo. Documents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) show that the two companies have been fighting over the “claw” style logos since 2015. Monster Energy claims that the Raptors’ logo of a clawed-up basketball is too similar to Monster Energy’s claw logo:

Monster Energy’s Logo

Monster’s “claw” logo is of three jagged vertical gashes. The company has used the three gashes since 2002. The Raptors’ old “claw and a basket ball” trademark was filed with the USPTO in 1994 and registered in 2003.

Raptors’ Old Logo

In 2014, the Raptors redesigned the team’s logos and filed US trademark applications for the following:

Raptors’ New Logos

In May 2015, Monster Energy opposed the Raptors’ new US trademark applications. Over the past 4 years, the two companies attempted to settle the case but failed to reach a settlement by 2018, when the case went into discovery.

A recent document shows that Monster Energy filed a motion for partial summary judgement stating that the equitable defense of prior registration that the Raptors asserted is only available when the marks and goods/services in the subject application are essentially the same as the mark and goods/services in a prior registration. Monster Energy argues that the Raptors’ Trademarks are not substantially identical to the prior registration. Namely, the Raptors’ design was changed from independent claws and a basketball to claws within a basketball. Furthermore, one of the new marks added the words “TORONTO RAPTORS”, which is not found in the old mark. Monster also states that the Raptors described the new marks in very different ways, and they intended to create new marks for evolving the aging Raptors brand. The TTAB has yet to decide the outcome of the motion.

The trademark fight extends to the Raptors’ home court, Canada. Monster Energy opposed the Raptors’ Canadian trademark application for the “TORONTO RAPTORS” logo in December 2016. Interestingly, the Raptors successfully registered their new logo without the “TORONTO RAPTORS” on March 10, 2017 with the Canadian Intellectual Property office (CIPO).

Monster Energy may try to bring down the Raptors’ trademarks, but nothing can take away from last night’s win!

#WeTheNorth!