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Lessons from the “Aunt Jemima” and “Uncle Ben’s” Trademarks

Stephanie Chong | June 19, 2020

The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 led to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, as evidenced by a groundswell of protests around the world.

Less than one month later, Quaker Oats’ parent company PepsiCo announced that its “Aunt Jemima” brand of over 130 years would be retired, recognizing that the brand’s origins are based on racial stereotypes.[1] Aunt Jemima pancake mixes and syrups have long been breakfast staples around North American kitchen tables. The brand was based on a song, “Old Aunt Jemima”, which was apparently popular in minstrel shows.[2] These shows were a form of American theatre based on purportedly comic racial stereotypes, featuring white performers in blackface portraying Black people in an often derogatory manner.[3]

A Primer on Reading your Insurance Policy

Lloyd Hoffer | May 12, 2020

A Primer on Reading Your Insurance Policy

No, this isn’t a blog post about whether or not your insurance covers losses arising out of COVID-19.  That’s a question that is dependent on the particular language of your policy and even then, there can be a certain amount of grey arising from the application of existing law to new circumstances, of which COVID-19 and its associated consequences are one.  We may not even know the answer in any given case until after we have the benefit of some judicial decisions to guide us. So if you have a serious question about COVID-19, you need to be speaking directly with your lawyer to evaluate your specific situation.

But if, in contrast, you’ve been prompted by COVID-19 (or anything else) to pull out your insurance documents and just have a look, if you are a homeowner, or a business owner, or perhaps even a lawyer who doesn’t normally work with insurance documents, you might be wondering just what the *!? you are looking at.  This blog post is for you.

COVID Considerations – Effective Brand Management during a Pandemic

Stephanie Chong | May 12, 2020

COVID Considerations – Effective Brand Management during a Pandemic

Trademarks are a key part of brand management. In view of uncertainties caused by COVID-19, effective brand management involves care and stewardship of a business’ trademarks to at least maintain, and hopefully increase, brand value through positive customer engagement.

In a previous blog post, we wrote about how a stoppage in business activities may affect the validity and enforceability of a trademark. We included some practical tips on steps that could be taken to avoid such a loss of rights.

Other COVID considerations which may factor into management of your brand are discussed below.

Extraordinary Circumstances Part II – What happens to a trademark when COVID-19 prevents a trademark owner from using the trademark in the normal course of business?

Stephanie Chong | April 20, 2020

Non-use of a trademark can be fatal to the validity and enforceability of a trademark. Thus, if a trademark owner cannot use its trademark, it may no longer be possible for the trademark owner to enforce its trademark rights against others, thus allowing competitors to engage in trademark infringement (or passing off) with impunity.

Such a scenario is of concern in the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is preventing many businesses from selling their goods or providing their services.

Extraordinary Circumstances Part I – The Impact of Covid-19 on Canadian Trademarks

Stephanie Chong | April 8, 2020

Unprecedented. Unparallelled. Unheard-of. All of these adjectives, and more, have been used to describe the current situation the world is facing in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Another apt word is “extraordinary”. The concept of “extraordinary circumstances” has been relied upon in appropriate circumstances in the legal world to justify the seeking of extensions of time of various deadlines.

Trademarks practice is inherently deadline-oriented. Deadlines apply to many aspects of the filing and application process, the opposition process (whereby a third party can formally object to a trademark application becoming registered) and the court process (often used by trademark owners to enforce their rights). Deadlines also apply to proceedings in which trademark owners are asked to provide proof that their trademarks have been used in Canada in order to maintain their validity.

In the constantly-shifting landscape caused by the pandemic, the following protocols have been developed with respect to extensions of time and other relevant aspects of Canadian trademarks practice. Note that these protocols are constantly evolving, and the relevant websites should be checked frequently for the most current information.

Hoffer Adler LLP’s Legal Insight Series

COVID-19 Legal Considerations for Franchisees and Franchisors

Idan Erez | April 2, 2020

The emergence and widespread prevalence of the COVID-19/coronavirus epidemic has created unprecedented challenges for both franchisees and franchisor.

Thoughts on Lady Justice for International Women's Day 2020

Stephanie Chong | March 6, 2020

As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8th, an interesting thought occurred to me: Why is Justice a woman?

The image of a woman wearing a blindfold and holding a set of scales is familiar in legal symbolism. Often referred to as Lady Justice, she can be seen in front of courthouses as an imposing statue, or embossed on a medallion or other background image.

But why is the embodiment of the concept of justice a woman?

Litigation Update: New Increases Coming to the Monetary Limits of Ontario Courts

Idan Erez | November 5, 2019

In Ontario, legal claims seeking the recovery of money may be pursued in different courts, and pursuant to different procedures, depending on how much money is being claimed. Smaller claims must be pursued in Small Claims Court. Larger claims up to a certain limit must be pursued to a “simplified procedure” within the Superior Court. Claims beyond that limit, or claims in which something other than a strictly monetary award, must be pursued to the ordinary procedure within the Superior Court. 

Attention Foreign Trademark Counsel (and Applicants): Appoint a Canadian Trademark Agent for Madrid Applications to Prevent Loss of Rights

Stephanie Chong | October 31, 2019

As reported in an earlier blog post, Canada implemented the Madrid Protocol on June 17, 2019. The Madrid Protocol is a system which permits entities located in member countries to obtain “international” trademark registrations.

The Volunteer Lawyer and Election Campaigns

Stephanie Chong | October 28, 2019

Election 43 is now behind us. While many Canadians were closely following the ups and downs of the 40-day campaign right up until the ballot results on October 21st, others were even more deeply entrenched.