The Ins and Outs of Canadian Copyright: Movies and the real and substantial connection test

A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice sheds some light on the application of the “real and substantial connection test” under Canadian copyright law where alleged infringement takes place across geographic borders. In Pourshian v. Walt Disney Company, an Ontario court allowed an action for copyright infringement to proceed against three Walt Disney Company related entities based on a movie distributed through Canadian movie theaters.

The plaintiff, Damon Pourshian, filed a Statement of Claim against a group of companies related to the Walt Disney Company. He alleged that Pixar’s award-winning animated film, “Inside Out”, released in 2015, infringed his copyright in a short film that he created in 1998 also entitled “Inside Out”. In Pourshian’s film, five organs—Heart, Stomach, Colon, Bladder, and Brain—guide the protagonist’s behaviour while in Pixar’s film, five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—influence the protagonist’s behaviour.

In response, the defendants filed a motion to set aside service of the Statement of Claim and to stay the action on the grounds that the defendants are incorporated and have their principal places of business in the United States, that Pixar’s “Inside Out” was made in California, and as a result Canada’s Copyright Act does not have extraterritorial application. The main issue on the motion. therefore, was whether the Ontario court should assume jurisdiction over Pourshian’s action.

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Growth in Chinese Trademark Applications by Canadian Companies Reflects New Business Reality

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (“CIPO”) recently released its annual report, IP Canada Report 2019, on the statistics and trends regarding the intellectual property (“IP”) system in Canada and use of IP globally by Canadian companies. One interesting development highlighted in the report is that the number of Canadian companies filing trademark applications in China has seen steady growth over the past decade with 3,401 applications in 2018, a 265% increase since 2008.

This is likely due to several factors, including the growth in consumer spending in China; however, Canadian businesses who do not intend to sell their goods within the Chinese market may still want to consider registering their trademarks in China. China has a “first-to-file” trademark system and no “use” requirement, meaning valuable marks can be registered in the names of third parties looking to take advantage of business owners who fail to protect their IP in China. 

Chinese trademark registrations are important for companies that manufacture their goods in China for export to Canada and other jurisdictions. Chinese border services may detain goods due for export, however, on the basis that they infringe the registered Chinese trademark rights in an effort to crack down on counterfeits. In order to avoid these types of disputes, and incurring significant costs in getting the goods out of detention, we recommend that all companies manufacturing goods in China register their trademark with the Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration to allow for the easy export of their goods from China.

If you would like to discuss registering a trademark in China or elsewhere, please contact a member of the Fasken IP team.  

Spooky IP

Fasken IP, Halloween costume copyrights

Choosing the perfect Halloween costume is a struggle for most trick-or-treaters; however, it can be particularly challenging for intellectual property lawyers. In Canada, unlike in some other countries, copyright exists in costumes which are representations of a copyrighted real or fictitious being, event or place.[1] For people who don’t want to buy a licensed costume that only leaves a few options.

Would-be James Bonds and Sherlock Holmes are in luck though. In Canada, written works are protected under copyright for a period of 50 years after the death of the author, which puts both Ian Fleming’s and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories in the public domain. The movies and TV series on which most of us would base a costume are still protected however, meaning that unique elements of those productions not found in the original books may still be protected. So would-be Le Chiffres from Casino Royale should have two good eyes and Blofelds shouldn’t have white cats (both are Hollywood additions to the original characters).

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A Brave New Patent World

fasken patent law
Close up of engineering drawing with electric motor

The long-awaited date has arrived.  The amendments to Canada’s Patent Act and Rules, in order to implement Canada’s obligations under the Patent Law Treaty (PLT), come into effect today.  The PLT is intended to harmonize and streamline formal procedures for national and regional patent applications and patents in order to make them more user friendly.  Briefly, among other changes, the amendments will introduce: (i) shorter deadlines for certain actions; (ii) concepts of “third party rights”, “due care” and omissions being “unintentional”; (iii) notices for missed deadlines; (iv) simplified requirements in order to obtain a filing date; and (v) restoration of priority.  For a detailed overview of some of the most significant changes, please refer to our bulletin on The New Patent Rules.

Patent Tips for Halloween

#SpookyIP U.S. Patent No. 3,965,574 to Harry Edwin Graves entitled “Apparatus for forming a jack-o-lantern”

Ever wished you had help with carving your Halloween pumpkin? If so, Harry Edwin Graves invented something just for you! Graves (the perfect name for the inventor of a Halloween themed invention) developed a device for carving a “jack-o-lantern” made of two curved plates engaging opposite sides of the pumpkin and retained in place by cords which are laced through the adjacent edge portions of the plates, the front plate having cutters for the eyes, nose and mouth. Enjoy carving your pumpkin and Happy Halloween!