By Chad Ingram
Published Aug. 10, 2017
Once it hit the media, it took exactly a week for the strange saga of the trademarking of the word “Haliburton” by a local man for commercial purposes to come to a conclusion.
Luckily, this conclusion did not include any legal action, and therefore did not cost county taxpayers any money.
After the story was picked up nationally, last Wednesday, the trademark holder, following discussions with representatives of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, announced he was irrevocably assigning the rights to and future interests in the trademark to the County of Haliburton, then delivered a letter to the county expressing same.
It was a wise decision that put a quick end to what could have been a long and messy situation.
That the situation is resolved, however, does not erase the fact that it happened, or that the federal government, responsible for the error that allowed the trademark to be approved in the first place, took no accountability for the error.
As was written in this space last week, trademarking the names of places is not supposed to be allowed under Canadian law:
“You may not register a word that uses a geographical location known to be the place where goods and services come from. Allowing you to use such place names as part of your trademark would mean you are the only one who can use the geographical term, and that would be unfair to others.”
Still, this particular application, which requested the trademark “Haliburton” on a host of consumer goods – athletic apparel, casual clothing, caps, children’s clothing, pillows, cushions, towels, blankets, beverage containers, cooler bags, lighters, key fobs, dairy products, etc. – was approved anyway.
As Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale pointed out, a simple Google search should have indicated to the reviewing officer, presumably unfamiliar with the community, that Haliburton is, in fact, a place.
It’s a community that is home to thousands of people, many of whom did not appreciate that the name of their home was able to be successfully trademarked for commercial purposes.
Requests by Schmale to the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development that the approval be reviewed and reversed were rebuked by the ministry. The county was essentially told that it was on its own and that it may have to resort to legal action.
Luckily, a community-made solution was achieved.
County Warden Brent Devolin has said he will continue to push the issue through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Eastern Wardens’ Caucus, as he most certainly should.
This community deserves an explanation from the federal government as to how this happened.