On February 28, 2024, the Federal Court of Canada (the Court) in Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne v Coors Brewing Company, 2024 FC 169, dismissed an appeal of a decision of the Registrar of Trademarks (the Registrar), finding that the Registrar committed no error in concluding that special circumstances excusing non-use existed for recently acquired trademarks.

This case dealt with an appeal of a non-use cancellation (section 45) proceeding, which upheld the registrations for the trademarks THE CHAMPAGNE OF BEERS, LE CHAMPAGNE DES BIÈRES, and MILLER LABEL & DESIGN (the Marks) on the basis that Coors Brewing Company (Coors) had demonstrated special circumstances excusing the non-use of the Marks during the relevant period.  The Registrar concluded that: (1) since Coors had acquired the Marks six months before the expiry of the three-year period, the acquisition date should be the starting point for the period of non-use; and (2) the non-use was beyond Coors’ control, and thus satisfied the test for special circumstances excusing non-use.

The two issues on appeal were whether the Registrar erred in using the acquisition date as the starting point for the period of non-use and whether the Registrar applied the wrong test when assessing whether special circumstances excused the non-use of the marks.  The standard of review on appeal was that of palpable and overriding error.

In assessing the first issue, the Court was not persuaded that the Registrar’s determination that the date of acquisition was an appropriate starting point for assessing non-use constituted a palpable and overriding error.  The Court found that the Registrar’s reasoning was grounded in the applicable jurisprudence and there was no basis to disturb this finding.  The Court also noted that the Registrar did not err in choosing to follow one line of jurisprudence over another.

In assessing the second issue, the Court was also not convinced that the Registrar made an error in law or fact.  The Court noted that the evidence supported the Registrar’s finding that the special circumstances explained and excused the absence of use since the period of non-use was not long, Coors required time to deal with the large and complex acquisition and obtain regulatory approval prior to using the Marks, and such approval required certain preparatory steps, including label design.

Consequently, the Court dismissed the appeal, finding that, while the Registrar’s decision was not perfect, it was based on the correct legal principles.

Summary By: Victoria Di Felice



24 03 20

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