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Crashing the People’s Party – IP Claims Meet their Demise


September 30, 2019

We first reported here on the case involving Satinder Singh Dhillon and his claims to intellectual property rights in the name “People’s Party of Canada”.

With Canada’s 43rd general election in full swing, we thought it would be an opportune time to provide some updates on the matter.

As reported in our earlier blog post, Mr. Dhillon had initiated claims against federal candidate Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada alleging that their use of this name constituted infringement of copyright owned by Mr. Dhillon, as well as passing off of Mr. Dhillon’s trademark rights in the name. Mr. Dhillon alleged that he had first publicly discussed the name “People’s Party of Canada” in a 2015 media story, whereas Mr. Bernier’s party did not register the name with Elections Canada until early 2019.

Mr. Dhillon sought an interlocutory injunction in the Federal Court seeking to prevent Mr. Bernier’s party from using the name “People’s Party of Canada” during a then-pending by-election campaign in British Columbia. The Federal Court refused to grant the injunction. In a decision dated May 3, 2019,[1] the Court found that:

  • Mr. Dhillon did not own copyright in “People’s Party of Canada”. Mr. Dhillon had obtained a copyright registration for a “communication signal” in the name, and he took the position that his electronic sharing of the initial media article which first mentioned the Party name constituted a broadcast of the communication signal. The Court disagreed, and was not satisfied that Mr. Dhillon met the definition of “broadcaster” in the Copyright Act, or that the name was the proper subject of a “communication signal”.
  • Mr. Dhillon could not assert trademark rights in “People’s Party of Canada”. In order to assert trademark rights, a mark must be used as such within the meaning of the Trademarks Act. The mere fact that a media story mentioned the name was insufficient to show use of the name as a trademark.

After Mr. Dhillon’s motion for an interlocutory injunction was dismissed, his ongoing action against Mr. Bernier suffered a final blow on September 20, 2019.[2] Due to ongoing delays and failure to adhere to various court orders, his action was dismissed. Although parallel proceedings against Elections Canada are still ongoing, in the absence of an appeal, it appears that Mr. Dhillon’s IP claims in the name of a political party have been put to rest.

As for the outcome of this election … that is another matter, and we will all find out once the ballots have been counted on October 21st!  

[1] 2019 FC 573
[2] 2019 FC 1194