Christian Varin of the Fédération des inventeurs du Québec Found Guilty of Fraud

After years of hearing and reading about complaints against the (supposed) Fédération des inventeurs du Québec, a Québec court recently found the principal behind the entity at issue, Christian Varin, guilty of fraud. Finally.

The La Presse newspaper published an article about the judgement at issue this morning. The judge was not kind in his judgment, using expressions and words like charlatan, fraudster, lies, flagrant incompetence, scam, etc. In short, Varin and the entity he created (and alone controls) defrauded hundred of small time inventors who were often attracted to Varin by advertising on Google and who believed Varin when he told them he could protect their inventions for a fraction of what regular patent agents (something is not) charged. Lo and behold, this was all a lie, Varin charging for supposed international searches and filing legally insignificant provisional applications that inventors were given the impressions would actually protect their inventions.

At the risk of repeating myself, the protection of inventions by patent registration implies a long process that is both complex and costly, for a reason. Given how strong patent protection is, the government does not grant it lightly, nor to anyone who simply asks. A (valid) patent applicable is something that requires great care, including to determine exactly what the invention is, and then to describe it adequately. Anyone interested in attempting to patent an invention should also be aware that protection must be sought in each country where one hopes to obtain rights, something that will require substantial means to achieve.

Believe it or not, there really is a reason why patent agents are so few and why they can charge fees that are this high: dealing with inventions and patents really is quite complex. This is NOT something Joe Average can do willy-nilly on the corner of your kitchen table.

If anyone who is neither an attorney or a patent agent tells you they can protect your invention for a fraction of what others charge, walk away, or better yet, run.

Updating Your Branding is Fine but Watch Out for Excessive Variations of Your Trademarks

When it comes to trademarks, the reality is that businesses like to keep up with the times, including to remain desirable and relevant in customers’ eyes. As a result, though the concept of a trademark implies a fair measure of permanence, they do often evolve over time. This can lead to problems.

One such problems stems from the rule that a trademark that has been registered must, in principle, be used as is, as it was originally filed for and registered. Any change to what a trademark looks (or sounds) like may lead to an eventual court holding that the trademark now being used is no longer the original one but rather a “variation“. Such variations may jeopardize protection afforded by registrations, as such changes may break the requisite link between the original registration and the trademark itself. This may happen, for example, when two marks are shown in close proximity to one-another, when something is added or subtracted from a mark, or upon doing a redesign of a logo, etc. If it’s not done properly, the business making such a change may end-up in hot water.

The issue traces back to the fact that, in Canada, a registered must be used as shown in the registration certificate. After all, it stands to reason that you may not register X and then use Y, and expect to benefit from your registration, as a registrant normally would. Rather, when a discrepancy crops up, courts may find that the registration at issue no longer applies to use of the trademark actually being used by the business (and vice-versa), because the link between the mark and the corresponding registration has been severed, so to speak.

Though our courts do allow some changes to their marks by trademark owners, we now impose limits on how far businesses can take these “variations”. For example, the new mark should not mislead or become prejudicial to members of the public, nor should it result in what the average person would consider a new mark altogether, as opposed to making changes that are sufficiently limited so that the original mark is still recognizable. If the changes are seen as too substantial, then courts may conclude that what is now being used is actually a new mark that sufficiently differs from the original one to justify holding the two are (legally) distinct.

If and when this happens, trademark owners may lose the benefit of the shield that affords a trademark registration, in addition to risking having the original trademark registration stricken because the mark it relates to is no longer in use.

To avoid problems such as these, trademark owners should periodically reassess whether their trademark registrations are adequate or sufficient, and determine whether new trademark applications should be filed, including to cover recent variations of their trademarks.

Sure, to your marketing department this may be a simple redesign of your logo, but to an eventual judge, it may actually result in a brand-new trademark (no pun intended).

Québec Personal Information Watchdog’s New Virtual Space Seeks to Explain Bill 68

After adopting a new privacy statute last September, the province of Québec is moving to a more modern framework which individuals and businesses must now get to know. Even though the law will come into force gradually over the next 3 years, the scope of changes to rules as to personal information represent a challenge, as everyone must now try and understand a regime which is becoming much more complex, as compared to the very basic statute that applies in Québec since 1994.

It is in that context that the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec (the “CAI”) recently published on its Web site a virtual space meant to better explain the new statute. The section of the CAI site entitled “Espace évolutif – Projet de loi 64” seeks to explain to individuals and businesses some of the basics and some of the nuances of the new rules that will start applying in Québec next year. That space is divided between a general explanation about Bill 64, and a second portion mean to explain in detail individual provision of the new statute, as divided by specific themes like biometrics, data deidentification, etc.

Given how few Québec SMB’s pay real attention to the protection of personal information, tools like this new space certainly cannot hurt. Moving forward, it will be important in particular for Québec businesses not only to get acquainted with personal information protection, but also to really get to understand the new rules that will apply within the province of Québec.

Consistent with the attitude of the Québec government, at this point the space at issue is available solely in French.