The Innovative Use of Copyright

The use of copyright as a tool to control distribution channels and protect product lines is not new. Neither is it confined to the traditional fields of music or software. Take for example the 2005 case of Euro Excellence, Inc. v. Kraft Canada Inc., 2005 FCA 427, where the Federal Court of Appeal upheld an injunction against an unauthorized distributor of “gray market” Toblerone chocolate bars, based on a claim of copyright infringement. Gray marketing refers to the distribution of genuine goods by a distributor who is outside the manufacturer’s official supply channel.

Manufacturers of all stripes seem to be employing copyright as a way to control unauthorized uses of their product. Take for example Viacom’s well-drafted copyright license terms on the back of its “Dora the Explorer” branded stickers: “This product is intended solely for non-commercial home use. No license has been granted to apply this product to decorate articles which will thereafter be sold. Any such use is an infringement of copyright in the characters portrayed and is specifically prohibited.” Viacom’s Dora figure is big business. In 2005, Viacom’s revenues in Canada alone were $214 million, generated in part from licensing and merchandising of branded products such as Dora stickers. Copyright can be a very useful tool which should be considered when developing a strategy for product distribution.

Just don’t let your pre-schoolers put any Dora stickers on the cups at their sidewalk lemonade stand.

Calgary – 16:04 MST

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