VCC vs. VCC: Where’s the Confusion?


By Richard Stobbe

When we’re talking about trademarks, at which point do we measure whether there is confusion in the mind of the consumer?

We reviewed this issue in 2015 (See: No copyright or trademark protection for metatags). In that earlier decision, Vancouver Community College sued a rival college for trademark infringement, on the basis of the rival college using “VCC” as part of a search-engine optimization and keyword advertising strategy. The court in that case said: “The authorities on passing off provide that it is the ‘first impression’ of the searcher at which the potential for confusion arises which may lead to liability. In my opinion, the ‘first impression’ cannot arise on a Google AdWords search at an earlier time than when the searcher reaches a website.” In other words, it is the point at which a searcher reaches the website when this “first impression” is gauged. Where the website is clearly identified without the use of any of the competitor’s trademarks, then there will be no confusion. That was then.

That decision was appealed and reversed in Vancouver Community College v. Vancouver Career College (Burnaby) Inc., 2017 BCCA 41 (CanLII). The BC Court of Appeal decided that the moment for assessing confusion is not when the searcher lands on the ‘destination’ website, but rather when the searcher first encounters the search results on the search page.  This comes from an analysis of the Trade-marks Act (Section 6) which says confusion occurs where “the use of the first mentioned trade-mark … would cause confusion with the last mentioned trade-mark.”

And it draws upon the mythical consumer or searcher – the “casual consumer somewhat in a hurry“. The BC court reinforced that “the test to be applied is a matter of first impression in the mind of a casual consumer somewhat in a hurry”, and as applied to the internet search context, this occurs when the searcher sees the initial search results.

To borrow a few phrases from other cases, trade-marks have a particular function: they provide a “shortcut to get consumers to where they want to go” and “Leading consumers astray in this way is one of the evils that trade-mark law seeks to remedy.” (As quoted in the VCC case at paragraph 68).  Putting this another way, the ‘evil’ of leading casual consumers astray occurs when the consumer sees the search results displaying the confusing marks.

On the subject of whether bidding on keywords constitutes an infringement of trademarks or passing-off, the court was clear: “More significantly, the critical factor in the confusion component is the message communicated by the defendant. Merely bidding on words, by itself, is not delivery of a message. What is key is how the defendant has presented itself, and in this the fact of bidding on a keyword is not sufficient to amount to a component of passing off…” (Paragraph 72, emphasis added).

The BC Court issued a permanent injunction against Vancouver Career College, restraining them from use of the mark “VCC” and the term “VCCollege” in connection with its internet presence.

Calgary – 07:00 MT

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A Domain Name is Property. A Domain Name is Not Property.

Business people are sometimes seen to roll their eyes when they ask their lawyer a straighforward question, and the lawyer pauses and replies “Well… it depends…”

In our earlier post (here and here), we reviewed the Canadian decision in Tucows.Com Co. v. Lojas Renner S.A., 2011 ONCA 548, which stands for the proposition that a domain name is intangible personal property. The court pointed to an emerging consensus among other courts that domain names are a form of property. This decision was denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in Lojas Renner S.A. v. Tucows.Com Co., 2012 CanLII 28261 (SCC) which seems to settle the matter.

In the United States, courts have also come to the same conclusion that a domain name is personal property, for example in (Bosh v. Zavala (C.D. Cal. Sept. 24, 2009) and Kremen v. Cohen, 325 F. 3d 1035 (US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals).

A recent US decision out of Virginia (In re Alexandria Surveys Int’l, LLC, 13-CV-00891 (E.D. Va. Nov. 7, 2013)) has come to a different conclusion in a bankruptcy matter. In this case, the court decided that “a domain name registrant acquires the contractual right to use a unique domain name for a specified period of time . . . a domain name is not personal property but rather ‘the product of a contract for services.’” [Emphasis added]

Many Canadian companies have intangible assets like domain names on both sides of the border, particularly in cases where branch offices or subsidiaries carry on business in both countries. While Canadian law appears to have some clarity on this topic, the Alexandria Surveys decision in the US does raise questions – questions that are compounded in light of the fact that intangible assets like domain names are designed to be used without regard to any particular country or jurisdiction.

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Trade-mark Clearinghouse Launched

ICANN’s new gTLD process has taken another step forward. The period for filing formal objections against new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has now been closed, and the Trademark Clearinghouse has been opened. The Clearinghouse is a global database of trade-marks to permit trade-mark owners to verify trade-mark information and use it to support trade-mark claims as the new gTLDs are rolled out. ICANN has announced that verification services are available now.

Watch for more updates in this area and if you are a Canadian trade-mark owner, check back as we will post details about how to submit your trade-mark to the Clearinghouse.

Related Reading: Another Update on the New gTLDs

Calgary – 10:00 MDT

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Another Update on the new gTLDs

If you missed the details about the introduction of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) or need a refresher, see our earlier post here, from October, 2012: An Update on gTLDs. The period for filing formal objections against these new domains has now been extended to 13 March 2013. Once the objection filing period closes, the objections will be processed through a dispute resolution mechanism which will likely run into August 2013.

Note this upcoming webinar hosted by ICANN:

  • New gTLD Objection & Dispute Resolution Webinar
    Date: 29 January 2013
    Time: 16:00 – 17:30 UTC (9:00am – 10:30am PST)
    Adobe Connect:
    Dial In: Dial in numbers are available here [PDF, 22 KB]

    (An overview of the new gTLD objection process, plus a Q&A with Dispute Resolution Service Providers.)

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Intellectual Property in 2013

Infringement! Litigation! Legislation! There is never a dull moment in the wonderful world of intellectual property law, and 2013 will be no exception. Here’s our list of what to watch in the coming year:

Copyright. If you keep making the same predictions year after year, eventually one of them will come true, right? For the last several years, we predicted that copyright reform would finally come to Canada. 2012 did not disappoint as the year of copyright, with the release of five SCC decisions and the passing of the copyright modernization legislation that had been long awaited.  We expect that 2013 will provide some opportunities to test the new law in court.

Anti-Spam. As with copyright, many have predicted that Canada’s “new” anti-spam law would come into effect for several years. Yes, Parliament passed the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act and it did receive royal assent way back in December, 2010. However, Canada’s anti-spam legislation is still not in force. Industry Canada released draft revised anti-spam regulations last week, and it would be surprising if we didn’t see final regulations in the first half of 2013.

App Law. We predicted in 2011 that app law would develop as regulations and laws fight to keep pace with the explosion of the app economy which is expanding in both business and personal life, along with cloud computing. 2012 provided a number of important developments in app law, mostly in the US. 2013 should continue to provide clarity in this growing area of law.

Apple and Samsung. The litigation that brought patent infringement back into the public consciousness like no case since RIM vs NTP may be resolved in 2013. Even Judge Koh has made a plea for “global peace.”

Calgary – 13:00 MST

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An Update on gTLDs

You may recall the announcement that new domains are coming - everything from .AAA to .ZULU. These proposed domains  are inching their way through the ICANN process. We have been monitoring the implementation of new gTLDs and note that the period for filing formal objections against a newly applied-for gTLD began on June 13, 2012 and is scheduled to run until January 2013. If you are interested in filing an objection against a proposed new top-level domain, you should contact trade-mark counsel right away.

Comments are also being solicited on the draft version of the Trademark Clearinghouse Requirements.

See: Reveal Day for New Top-Level-Domains

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Bookmark on your iPhone, iPad, Android tablet or mobile device for updates and developments in Canadian intellectual property law, including practical information and commentary on intellectual property business issues, technology commercialization and developments in the law, copyright and patent questions, trade-mark law, software and IT outsourcing, and related areas including privacy and cleantech licensing.

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Thanks to all of our readers. We’ll be taking a break during the month of August, and will resume in September, 2012.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Domain Name Update

Our earlier post (Domain Name is “Personal Property”) related to the decision in Tucows.Com Co. v. Lojas Renner S.A., 2011 ONCA 548, where an Ontario court had to decide if the domain name was intangible personal property “located in Ontario”. This was an important issue in the case, since a finding that the domain name was property located in Ontario would permit the court to take jurisdiction and the lawsuit to proceed. The court decided that there is an emerging consensus among other courts that domain names are a form of property, and found that domain names, for the purposes of Ontario law, can be considered intangible personal property. This case was denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in Lojas Renner S.A. v. Tucows.Com Co., 2012 CanLII 28261 (SCC).

Calgary – 07:00

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Reveal Day for New Top-Level-Domains


ICANN has revealed the applicants for new generic top-level-domains (gTLDs). (See our earlier post: Let a Thousand .Flowers Bloom? Update on New gTLDs ) This is the list of companies and organizations that want to run their own domain registry, though the new domains have not yet been approved by ICANN. Some points to note:

  • Many of the applicants will walk away empty-handed. For example, there are 12 applications for the .APP domain, and only one one of them will be awarded the right to establish that domain.
  • A number of global trade-mark owners have staked their claim in this new space – for example, the owners of the APPLE, AUDI, FORD and AMERICAN EXPRESS brands have each applied to establish these brands as gTLDs.
  • Yes, someone has applied to establish .FLOWERS, as predicted in our earlier post… there are four applications for this domain.
  • Some brand owners have elected to go with generic applications – for example, both Safeway and Walmart applied for .GROCERY
  • Internationalized domains are part of the list, including 삼성 (That’s SAMSUNG in Korean).
  • Google appears to be among the most enthusiastic applicants. They established a separate company – Charleston Road Registry Inc. – to apply for more than 100 top-level-domains.

ICANN is pitching this as “The day it all becomes clear”, but the process is far from it. An “objection period” for new gTLDs now begins and ICANN states that this period “is intended to remain open for approximately seven months”. Not exactly clear. The proposed “Trademark Clearinghouse” is also not yet established, though this will be critical for brand owners to manage rights protection issues when the new registries are launched. Stay tuned.

Canadian Domain Name Decisions & Stats


This month marks the 25th year of operations for the .CA domain, Canada’s country-code top-level domain (ccTLD). It was originally allocated to John Demco, an employee of UBC, who operated the domain on a volunteer basis between 1987 and 2000, when it was formally transferred to CIRA (the Canadian Internet Registration Authority). I still recall the days when the mentality around domain name disputes was quite simple – someone knew someone who knew Jon Postel, who could simply reallocate the nameservers. Today, .CA disputes are resolved through formal arbitration under the CDRP – the CIRA Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, version 1.3 which came into effect August 22, 2011. A few recent decisions:

  • Transfer Granted: In Oakley Inc. v. Zhou Yayang, the famous manufacturer of sunglasses and sportswear claimed rights in the domain name DISCOUNT-OAKLEYSUNGLASSES-SALE.CA. This case was a classic “squatter” case which featured a registrant who filed no defence. Evidence that the domain was being used to sell Oakley products outside of Oakley’s distribution chain. A long line of decisions was cited to support Oakley’s win, and the domain name was ordered to be transferred.
  • Claim Dismissed: In Ebates Canada Inc. v. Cranhill & Co., there was a dispute about the EBATES.CA domain name. Ebates Canada claimed that it was the exclusive Canadian licensee of the trade-mark EBATES, a mark which is the subject of two competing trade-mark applications in the Canadian trade-marks office. Cranhill, the registrant, argued that it enjoyed earlier use of the name EBATES dating back to 1994 and had rights in 2000, the year the domain name was registered. In deciding to dismiss the complaint, the panelists noted that the claimant Ebates Canada Inc. was not incorporated until 2011. It did not exist in 2000 and could not have had any rights at the time the domain name was registered.

What’s the overall chance of success? If recent statistics are any guide, decisions are most often rendered in favour of applicants. There have been 51 decisions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (to date) and of those decisions, roughly 80% of decisions have resulted in a transfer; in about 20% of the cases, the claim was dismissed. That may reflect the fact that applicants will only pursue a remedy through the CDRP when they have a strong case. In about 64% of the cases, a single arbitrator was used, as opposed to a panel of 3 decison-makers. Interestingly, of the cases in which the claim was dismissed, the majority (72%) were decided by a 3-member panel.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Let a Thousand .Flowers Bloom? Update on New gTLDs


You may recall our earlier posts describing the gTLD process (see: The New gTLDs: Who, What and When). 

ICANN‘s process introduces new generic Top-Level-Domains (or gTLDs), expanding the domain name system from the current familar strings such as .com, .net and .ca, etc. to who knows what… .flowers, .lawyers or .anything. The application period was due to close on April 12, 2012. May 1, 2012 was slated as “Reveal Day”, when the applicants and their proposed TLDs were to be published. So far, some 2,091 applications along with USD$350 million in application fees have been submitted to ICANN. The May 1st deadline has passed without the publication of the application information, because ICANN has suffered a “software glitch” which must be resolved before the application period can be reopened and finalized.  

Once that is complete, ICANN will publish the names of applicants and their proposed TLDs. This triggers a seven-month objection period, during which rightsholders can file a complaint. A recent article from Managing Intellectual Property reports that the “Trademark Clearinghouse” is also behind schedule.

Even if half of the applications are approved, that means the introduction of a thousand new generic Top-Level-Domains. Trade-mark owners, brace yourselves.

Related reading: Lawyers Weekly: Domain Name Article

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Lawyers Weekly: Domain Name Article


Richard Stobbe was interviewed in the March 9th edition of The Lawyers Weekly  on the subject of new gTLDs. Note: The gTLD application period closes April 12, 2012.

Related Reading:The New gTLDs: Who, What and When

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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The New gTLDs: Who, What and When


ICANN is now implementing its plans to permit the creation of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). TLDs are everything to the right of the dot. (For example, a new gTLD might be .canada, .newyork, or .mac) Many brand owners are tired of seeing announcements about gTLDs, Sunrise Periods and procedures for rightsholders. Seemingly endless changes – from the launch of new TLDs such as dot-ASIA and dot-XXX, to the introduction of internationalized domain names, to recent dot-CA changes – make this a bewildering area of law for trade-mark owners. Here is a summary of what to expect from ICANN in 2012:

  • January 2012  - ICANN started accepting applications for new gTLDs. Who will apply? With a US$185,000 application fee, and significant legal and technical hurdles, the applicants are expected to be limited to large corporations and investor groups with a business plan directed at a specific community or niche. Remember that the list of new gTLDs will likely include non-Latin domains, based on Cyrillic, Chinese or Arabic.
  • April 12, 2012  – The application period closes.
  • May 1, 2012 is “Reveal Day” at which point the applicants and their proposed TLDs are published. This triggers a seven-month objection period, during which rightsholders can file a complaint based on valid rights to the string of characters that make up the gTLD. For example, trade-mark owners may make an objection to a proposed gTLD on this basis.
  • Late 2012 – ICANN has proposed a “Trademark Clearinghouse” which would be a (very cumbersome) database of registered trademarks to support trademark claims and sunrise services. As new gTLDs are launched, ICANN will require that every new gTLD operator uses this Clearinghouse and conducts both a Trademark Claims and a Sunrise Process. 
  • Late 2012 – probably sometime in 2013 – The actual launch of new gTLDs, with the usual array of Sunrise and Landrush Periods.

We’ll keep you posted as this develops.

You’ll notice we didn’t cover the question “Why”. Why is there a compelling need for new gTLDs?  If you figure that one out, please let us know.

Calgary – 07:00 MST


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Alberta’s Innovation System



Join us on March 1, 2012, (see our Events page) for the upcoming meeting of the Licensing Executives Society (LES) on The Alberta Innovation System. Technology commercialization has its challenges. However, resources and funding programs are available to support technology development for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Alberta. Within Alberta, the “innovation system” has undergone reorganization over the past 2 years. In Calgary, Calgary Technologies Inc., (CTI), and University Technologies International, (UTI) have amalgamated to form Innovate Calgary. Across the province, Alberta Ingenuity, Alberta Research Council, iCORE and nanoAlberta have merged into Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF).

How does this impact licensing professionals, counsel, advisors, SMEs and entrepreneurs? What do you need to know about commercialization support within Alberta? Attend the LES Alberta Innovation System luncheon with our panel: Darren Massey Senior VP, Innovate Calgary, David Reese, Vice President, Licensing, Innovate Calgary and Scott Bass, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.  

Calgary 07:00 MST   

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About SOPA…


What? Wikipedia is off-line? Please cue the other three horsemen of the apocalypse.

It’s amazing what happens when Wikipedia decides to blackout its service to protest “legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet…” Suddenly everyone is talking about SOPA (our November post is here) proposed U.S. intellectual property legislation that has raised concerns across the business world. Google, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla and other internet companies are also in on the protest. That’s remarkable, mainly because these companies all have their own agendas (as any business does) and there are very few circumstances where they will coordinate their protest on a single issue on a specific day. Over to you, U.S. Congress.

Related Reading from SOPA: What’s All the Fuss About? 

Calgary – 11:30 MST

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Intellectual Property Law in 2012


Lawsuits! Infringement! Litigation! Ah, there’s never a dull moment in the wonderful world of intellectual property law, and 2012 will be no exception. Here’s our list of what to watch in the coming year:

Copyright, Copyright, Copyright: For several years running, we have predicted that copyright reform will come to Canada. It might actually happen in 2012. There is good reason for optimism this time: First, the Supreme Court of Canada heard a clutch of copyright cases in December 2011, and their decision is expected in the first half of 2012. Second, the Harper government is promising/threatening (depending on your point of view) to pass Bill C-11, the current iteration of the Copyright Reform Bill. Change will come, one way or another.

Online Terms & Cloud Computing: In one sense, “cloud computing” is just another name for a trend that has been developing for a decade. In another sense, it really does capture a new way of doing business for many IT services. We predict that the law will develop in this area in both Canada and the US, as online terms and cloud-computing contracts are tested in court. Here’s one example of a pending decision: Sony faces a class action in the US over its online terms for the PlayStation Network.

Anti-Spam Law: In 2011, we rashly stated that Canada made “headway” in the anti-spam department, with the passing of the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act. Canada’s anti-spam legislation did receive royal assent on December 15, 2010. However, the law is still not yet in force. Draft regulations are being debated and negotiated, and even if they do come into force in 2012, they will almost certainly be subject to a grace period which will delay implementation until late 2012, or maybe even 2013.

New CDRP Rules: In 2011, CIRA updated the rules governing dot-ca domain name disputes. Watch for our review of the changes, and the first decisions that have been released under the new rules. 

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Domain Name Update: .CA


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….along comes another change to the domain name world.

This is a final reminder that the Sunrise period for the .XXX blocking process runs until Friday, October 28, 2011, to protect Canadian trade-marks. To be eligible for this procedure, the request must correspond to a trade-mark that was registered by Sept. 1, 2011. For more info, see this link. 

Next up:  The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) recently announced its own changes within the .CA domain. CIRA is currently proposing to introduce French-accented letters. The current system only recognizes .CA domain names in ASCII or non-accented letters (a-z) and numbers. CIRA is considering the implementation of French Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) at the second level (to the left of the dot). What does this mean? This would permit the use of accented letters such as those listed below:

  1. é, ë, ê, è
  2. â, à
  3. ô
  4. ù, û, ü
  5. ç
  6. î, ï

Yes, this would come complete with its own Sunrise period, to permit existing registrants to preregister and a landrush protocol which is similar to other domain name changes such as the introduction of the .XXX domain. For more info on CIRA’s proposed changes, see this link. Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Domain Name is “Personal Property”


Courts have often struggled with how to characterize a domain name using traditional legal concepts. On one level it’s just a “bundle of rights”  – a registration that provides the registrant with rights to exclude others from the use of the domain name, and point the domain name to a certain IP address on the internet.  The question of whether this intangible bundle is “property” has not been settled by any Canadian appeal court, until now.

In Tucows.Com Co. v. Lojas Renner S.A., 2011 ONCA 548, the court had to decide if the domain name was intangible personal property “located in Ontario”. This was an important issue in the case, since a finding that the domain name was property located in Ontario would permit the court to take jurisdiction and the lawsuit to proceed. The court decided that there is an emerging consensus among other courts that domain names are a form of property, and found that domain names, for the purposes of Ontario law, can be considered intangible personal property. 

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Reminder: .xxx Blocking Process


As a follow-up to our earlier post (Domain Name Update: .xxx Blocking Process), this is a reminder that on Wednesday, September 7, 2011, the “Sunrise B” period will commence to permit the owners of registered trade-marks to block their marks from becoming part of a .XXX domain name. The opt-out process blocks eligible trade-marks at the .XXX registry so these trade-marks cannot be registered by others.  As an example, Microsoft might make use of this procedure to block the registration of “” as a domain name. This Sunrise period runs for 52 days until Friday, October 28, 2011. By that date, trade-mark owners must submit their Reservation Request under the Sunrise B procedure.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Trade-marks: The Basics


In a new series, we review the basics of Canadian trade-mark, copyright and patent law.

  • Canadian Trade-marks: Trade-marks protect the rights to brand names, such as a word, logo or design. A trade-mark is used in the marketplace to identify products of one company, and distinguish these products from others in the marketplace. Trade-marks can be extremely valuable assets of a company, and represent the company’s reputation with consumers. If mishandled or left unprotected, trade-mark rights can be eroded or lost. In Canada, trade-marks can be registered through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and a Trade-mark Agent can assist with screening searches and registration services.
  • Best Practices:
    • Registration – Seek registration for your core brands. This extends your rights to that mark, in connection with your products, across Canada. Unregistered marks do not enjoy the same scope of protection.
    • Screening Searches – Make better business decisions with better information. Searches are critical, particularly before launching a new brand. This helps assess risk and provides insight about potential competitors in the marketplace.
    • Notation –  Mark your brands with the â„¢ symbol or the ® symbol for registered marks. Consider establishing brand guidelines for your organization.
    • Licensing – Marks used within a large corporate group, or between a parent company and its subsidiaries, licensees or franchisees, should be properly licensed. Otherwise, a company risks losing its rights to unlicensed marks.
  • Trade-marks on the Internet: Trade-mark policing and enforcement is challenging in the context of the internet, since infringement can easily occur in any jurisdiction, and from any server. Establish a strategy that’s suitable and cost-effective in your industry, coordinating with your domain names and your national and international brand portfolio.
  • Trade-marks Outside Canada: If you have or are seeking customers outside Canada, then get advice on trade-mark protection in those markets, whether in the US, China, the EU, or developing markets in South America. Trade-mark rights are governed country-by-country, so remember that trade-mark rights in Canada will not provide any protection in the US or elsewhere. Prioritize your brands and markets and seek assistance from professionals who can help establish a strategy for brand protection beyond Canada’s borders.

For more information and assistance with your trade-mark needs visit Field’s Intellectual Property & Technology Group. 

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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