Archive for August, 2008

Olympics and the Trade-Mark Police

In China, the birthplace of countless knock-offs and counterfeits, the task of policing Olympic marks must be daunting indeed.  The trade-marks police must strive to be faster, higher, stronger than the offenders.  French retailer Carrefour was recently rebuked for the use of Olympic emblems in its Nanjing retail location.  Hanging Olympic banners and propping up Olympic mascots in-store is forbidden without paying the appropriate sponsorship fees under Olympic license agreements.  Another story from China illustrates that this isn’t just a matter of preventing unauthorized use of the Olympic rings, but also one of banning the display of any unauthorized logo of any company. Nike’s swooshes were covered up (this was regular advertising appearing in a Beijing pedestrian underpass) since Nike is not an official sponsor. 

This isn’t always a hi-tech affair – inside the stadium, the brand cops will use duct tape to mask any renegade brand that might be picked up by the cameras. If a reporter brings an Apple laptop, they’ll cover up the logo while its in the stadium to avoid the perception that Apple is getting free Olympic advertising.    

As the 2008 Olympics draw to a close, it’s clear that the Chinese experience is a preview of what we can expect to see in Vancouver and Whistler in 2010 when the enforcement of the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act will be in full swing.  We’ll review Olympic advertising guidelines in 2010.

Related Reading: http://www.ipblog.ca/?p=115

 

Calgary – 09:30 MST

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Online Privacy: YouTube, Google and Canadian Users

In the current copyright battle between Viacom and Google, the users (including you, if you’ve ever watched a YouTube video) are caught in the cross-fire. 

Viacom and other broadcasters launched a lawsuit against Google last year, alleging $1-billion in damages. The lawsuit claims that thousands of clips of Viacom television programming are available on Google’s YouTube. In the latest salvo, Viacom won a federal court ruling in the US, in which Google was ordered to deliver up its database of records associated with every YouTube clip that users have viewed.  Whenever a YouTube clip is viewed, YouTube’s database apparently collects information about those who viewed it: including log-in names (for users with YouTube accounts), and IP addresses (for viewers without accounts).

Predictably, there was an outcry; even Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner weighed in with an open letter to Google citing the privacy risks for Canadian users. Ultimately, the parties were able to come to an agreement to anonymize certain data elements to make it more difficult to identify individual users.

Two points are worth raising:

  • In today’s borderless culture, the jurisdiction of US courts over Canadian personal information is not an academic question. It’s an unavoidable reality – Canadians leave their personal digital fingerprints all over the US whenever they use the internet;
  • Secondly, someone should be asking… why is YouTube collecting all this data in the first place? 

Calgary – 13:45 MST

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Domain Name News

A few notes from the internet and domain name world:

  • CIRA’s revised WHOIS policy has been criticized by Michael Geist  and others for its “backdoor access for special interests”.  I have to disagree with Prof. Geist on this one.  The ability of trade-mark owners to be able to defend against cybersquatters and trade-mark infringement is a business reality, no different from the ability of someone to see a business license at a store, or to conduct corporate records searches to see who owns a company.  The criticism of the new WHOIS policy is misplaced. The policy strikes a balanced approach between the interests of registrants and brand owners (who are made up of both small local businesses and multinational corporations);
  • I don’t often put in a plug for summer sales, but reliable Canadian Registrar webnames.ca is offering new domain name registrations for 50% off , until August 31, 2008.  The promotion applies to all domain extensions: .CA, .COM, .ORG, .MOBI, .NET, .INFO, .BIZ, .US, .CN and .ASIA.  This provides an opportunity for trade-mark owners to buy up variations of their core marks, to fence in their online brand and pre-empt cybersquatting disputes;
  • Lastly, the new dot-tel top-level domain is due to be launched at the end of this year, with the Sunrise Period commencing December 3, 2008.  Full particulars of the new domain and the launch schedule can be found here.

 

Calgary – 12:30 MST

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